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Victory For Environmentalists And The RMA

Monday August 9, 2004

Victory For Environmentalists And The Resource Management Act

In an environmental victory that underlines the value of the Resource Management Act, the Environment Court today has recommended to the Government that a Water Conservation Order be granted to protect the Rangitata River. The Court has released its interim report.

“This is a tremendous victory for anglers, recreational users, and all those that value the outstanding features of the Rangitata River”, says Jay Graybill Fish & Game New Zealand spokesperson. “This essentially stops the carve up of yet another major river. It emphatically shows the value of the Resource Management Act that the commercial sector is trying to eviscerate.”

Water Conservation Orders are provisions of the Resource Management Act.

“Fish & Game applied for the Water Conservation Order and lobbied hard for it,” says Mr Graybill. “The WCO gives the River virtual ‘National Park’ status. All Fish and Game licence holders deserve a pat on the back because through their licence fees they have protected an outstanding river for present and future generations.”

Says Mr Graybill: “The Environment Court supports the findings of the Special Tribunal that the lower river is outstanding for salmon fishing, salmon passage, water based recreation, aquatic bird habitat and aquatic macro invertebrates, and for its cultural and spiritual values.”

The key findings of the decision are to retain the current minimum flows and place a cap of 33 cumecs for all abstraction.

The court concluded that no further abstraction can be allowed in the range below 100 cumecs without serious adverse effects on the outstanding features. They noted that 33 cumecs is a significant proportion of the mean flow of 95 cumecs. The Court said they have particular concerns about the effects of abstraction from the river on all braided river bird species, not just black fronted terns, and on the salmon fishery, and on salmon angling.

Mr Graybill was very critical of the Timaru District Council and Rangitata South Irrigation Ltd who dragged out the appeal process in an amateur manner and subjected all parties to very significant extra costs.

The case for the Timaru District Council and Rangitata South Irrigation Ltd also came in for criticism in the Court’s report where at times their approach was termed “simplistic” and “speculative” and that one of their key witnesses “did not appear to understand” some of the factors that make the river outstanding for angling.

Says Jay Graybill: “The Timaru District Council and Rangitata South Irrigation made strategic mistakes in their appeal. They put minimal effort into the hearings held by the Special Tribunal. And the Environment Court stated clearly that the Report from the Special Tribunal was their starting point and they time and time again accepted the findings of the Special Tribunal.”

“Timaru District Council and Rangitata South Irrigations ran a negative case by fronting up with few of their own witnesses and attempted to discredit the evidence of those supporting the rivers outstanding features. They left their run too late and time and time again they failed to make their case. This negative, destructive approach lengthened the hearings and added to the cost of the process for all parties and does them no credit.”


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