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Mackenzie Basin Community Fights For Water

History Behind Mackenzie Basin Community’s Fight For Water

The Mackenzie Basin community taking on the Government to have water for irrigation and stock returned to them say there’s no denying the promises made to their community.

The Mackenzie Basin community today returned to top of Mt Mary in the Basin where 37 years ago the Minister of Electricity, Tom Shand made a deal that the Upper Waitaki Hydro development would provide them with water for irrigation.

Local station owner, Denis Fastier said looking out from Mt Mary today you see the giant canals that traverse the Basin, bisecting many farming properties, and effectively cutting them off from water.

“The three great rivers Ohau, Pukaki & Tekapo which used to flow through here are now either dry or reduced to a trickle.” he said.

“Water is the potential life blood of this arid region. It was concern about the impact of those canals that prompted the meeting on this hilltop all those years ago, ” said Denis Fastier.

The area’s former Mayor, Bruce Scott is behind a petition backing the community which he today presented to National Party Leader Dr Don Brash and Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith on top of Mt Mary.

“I was right here in 1967 and heard Tom Shand promise that water would be set aside from the hydro scheme for irrigation potential,” he said.

“As young farmer in this area I was delighted when that promise was confirmed in the 1969 Order in Council that set aside 14.7 cumecs of water for irrigation in this area,” said Bruce Scott …/2 -2-

Bruce Scott said the petition has received strong support and contains 2,831 signatures, gathered in just a week, of those on both sides of the hydro development in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

“The petition has been signed by prominent scientists and engineers who were around at that time. They have a strong knowledge of the promise made to our community and know the benefits that this water would bring.”

“Like me, they believe that if the full intent of the OIC is not included in the Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill when it comes back before Parliament, then a very grave miscarriage of justice will have taken place,” he said.

Bruce Scott said he had also searched extensively through the records of the Mackenzie District Council and that the records confirm that the promise was made and that the clear intention of the Government was to honour that promise.

“My years of community service in this area have been guided by the philosophy that a promise made should be a promise kept. I won’t stand by and allow this Government not to measure up to the same standard,” he said.

As one of the first to irrigate land in the Mackenzie Basin, Bruce Scott says he knows first hand how even a small area of irrigated land can take the pressure off more vulnerable lands.

“The 14.7 cumecs set aside in the OIC can’t irrigate all the suitable land in the Mackenzie Basin, but with today’s technology if the potential of that 14.7 cumecs was fully developed it would help this area immensely from a production perspective but more importantly from an environmental perspective by protecting fragile wind-erosion prone soils,” he said.

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