Ashburton District Council today resolved to ask Environment Canterbury to make an amendment to the Land and Water Regional Plan to allow time for further investigative work to be carried out, and for a sustainable work programme to be developed and implemented.
The Council has undertaken a preliminary investigation into ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the stockwater system and if possible free up water for other users. This has found there are options worth looking more closely at as the Council looks to ways in which it can deliver a viable service the farmers while taking less water taken from the Ashburton River.
Standing in the way of finding solutions that will work well into the future is the timeline proposed by the Regional Council being unrealistic.
"We are 100% committed to increasing the efficiency of the stockwater system, how we manage water, and to achieving targets set in the Land and Water Regional Plan to see more water in the Ashburton River. It makes perfect sense to us to see more flow in the river along with making water available for biodiversity, ecological, environmental and productive benefits," said Ashburton Mayor Angus McKay.
McKay fears that rushing projects to meet the Ecan timelines may result in decisions that do not produce the best overall outcomes for the district.
"In order to get the best long term results for our district we need to undertake a significant amount of work both in planning and actual physical works, and we fear that the deadlines set are simply unachievable and may not allow for the best approaches to emerge".
A Water Investigation report commissioned by Council determined there is unrequired water could be made available and used elsewhere in the District. It also found changes to water distribution technologies would see less water loss, and has developed suggested strategies for funding the project that would minimise the cost of changes to Council and the community.
If the proposed amendment goes ahead activities to be carried out by Council would include:
- A comprehensive assessment of stockwater customer requirements
- Work with ECan to explore options for the transfer of water
- Work with ECan and the Ashburton Zone Committee on tasks and develop a work programme
- Ecological assessments of the stockwater race network
- Hold discussions with all irrigation companies to explore options to combine stockwater with piped irrigation networks
- Identify the extent of the stockwater network required to service existing stockwater customers
- Identify physical works and cost implications to continue to provide stockwater
- Carry out required physical works including piping of races
This work could take up to 10 years to complete and contribute to a number of targets identified in the Canterbury Water Management Plan.
"The sustainable use and management of water is undoubtedly a key issue for Canterbury and we are looking to change the way we deliver our stockwater service as quickly as possible. To do that we need the support of Environment Canterbury by making some amendments to its plan; this will help us achieve the best long term environmental and economic outcomes for the district," said McKay.
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