Irrigation project up in the air
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.