Ir­ri­ga­tion pro­ject up in the air

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

A multi-mil­lion dol­lar ir­ri­ga­tion pro­ject’s fu­ture is at risk if the re­gional coun­cil sets min­i­mum flow lev­els too high.

The Otago Re­gional Coun­cil is cur­rently con­sult­ing on op­tions for min­i­mum flows in the Manuherikia catch­ment, in­clud­ing how many min­i­mum flow sites there should be, sur­face water flow lev­els, and ground­wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion.

The Manuherikia Catch­ment Water Strat­egy Group (MCWSG) has spent the past five years and about $2 mil­lion in­ves­ti­gat­ing fu­ture ir­ri­ga­tion op­tions which in­volved raising Falls Dam.

Chair­man Al­lan Kane said the group had flow mod­el­ling done and based the pro­ject de­sign on a min­i­mum flow of 1200 litres per sec­ond which re­quired the dam to be sub­stan­tially in­creased in height.

‘‘If min­i­mum flow lev­els are set higher than that, and ba­si­cally, the four op­tions sug­gested for dis­cus­sion by the ORC are, then it brings into ques­tion the vi­a­bil­ity of our whole pro­ject. If our pro­ject doesn’t get off the ground and a high min­i­mum flow is set, farm­ers will have less water for ir­ri­ga­tion and be less able to main­tain the dam.

‘‘The dam needs a lot of work done on it, par­tic­u­larly to bring it up to new stan­dards re­quired of dams...We are dis­ap­pointed we can’t sit down with ORC and talk this through.’’

ORC pol­icy plan­ning and re­source man­age­ment di­rec­tor Fraser McRae said the coun­cil was ‘‘very aware’’ of the sig­nif­i­cant work the group had done and had fi­nan­cially sup­ported it.

‘‘We are re­quired to con­sult with all of the com­mu­nity rather than favour­ing one par­tic­u­lar group or sec­tion. While it is ac­cepted that the group is a ma­jor stake­holder in this process, it is not the only one.’’

ORC chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Bodeker had at­tended sev­eral meetings with the group over the years to keep up to date with the progress made on de­vel­op­ing water stor­age so­lu­tions.

While ORC had been will­ing to as­sist the group to a ‘‘cer­tain ex­tent’’, its dual role as a reg­u­la­tor and its re­spon­si­bil­ity un­der the Re­source Man­age­ment Act to pro­mote re­source man­age­ment and con­sult the com­mu­nity equally, had meant the coun­cil’s in­volve­ment has had to be lim­ited.

‘‘Noth­ing has yet been de­ter­mined as far as a pos­si­ble flow range is con­cerned.’’


Dogs take a break dur­ing the Tar­ras Dog Tri­als at the new grounds at Lindis Downs.


Al­lan Kane.

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