Economic impact a concern
Concerns over the economic impact of proposed water changes to a Central Otago catchment has sparked the district council to intervene.
The Central Otago District Council wants to commission its own economic impact study on proposed new minimum flow settings for the Manuherikia River. The Otago Regional Council is currently consulting on a proposed plan change for the Manuherikia catchment which will establish new minimum flows and allocation limit.
In a report to the CODC, economic development manager Warwick Hawker says the public do not have an ‘‘informed view’’ of suggested minimum flow options unless they have ‘‘robust data’’ regarding the economic impacts when they make submissions during the consultation process.
There was ‘‘considerable disquiet’’ in the Manuherikia catchment’s pastoral farming and horticulture communities about the ORC’s suggested minimum flows, and questions have been raised about the viability of the Manuherikia Catchment Water Strategy Group’s (MCWSG) community water project.
‘‘Pastoral farming, horticulture and viticulture are key drivers of the Central Otago economy. In 2016 the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector was worth $163.8 million and directly accounted for 17.2 per cent of the region’s GDP and 22.9 per cent of employment. Indirectly this sector also supported other economic activity and employment in the district. It is questionable whether these sectors could continue to be economically viable if they do not have access to reliable irrigation through the dry Central Otago growing season.’’
Suggested minimum flow levels are detailed in an ORC document ranging from 1250 litres per second in summer to 4000 litres per second in winter. The ORC has yet to prepare an evaluation report which would detail benefits, costs and risks to the community, economy and environment. The report will not be commissioned until the ORC has identified its preferred minimum flow regime, the report says.
According to irrigators, the lowest proposed summer flow is not achievable in dry years and the lowest proposed winter flow could result in the existing Falls Dam not being able to be filled in winter.
The report will be considered at the CODC meeting today.
Alexandra designer Daphne Randle won the Breen Construction Collections Award with Patterns in Paua.