Some bills 80 times initial quotes

Last updated 05:00 13/09/2012

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South Canterbury farmers are challenging Environment Canterbury over more than $300,000 worth of administration costs they have been charged for water consents.

Some of the bills are 80 times greater than the amount the farmers were initially quoted.

The group of 17 South Canterbury and North Otago consent holders will dispute the administration costs at a hearing in Lincoln on Monday.

The costs were billed to the farmers back in 2010 after they were granted 35-year consents to take water from the Hakataramea River. The farmers had waited more than a decade for the consent decision.

The applicants claim the costs are excessive and differ hugely from the original estimates they were given at the start of the process. The Resource Management Act required the applicants to pay 90 per cent of the cost of processing the consent up front, with the remaining 10 per cent being paid at the end of the process.

It was the remaining 10 per cent that was being disputed. The applicants will argue the remaining charge was well in excess of the original fixed charge.

The Herald understands some of the applicants face bills 80 times that of the original 10 per cent fee.

Some of the applicants disputing the costs include Star Holdings, which operates under the name Lonestar Farms, along with Waitaki Orchards, the Maerewhenua District Water Race Company, the Hakataramea Valley Irrigation Company and Hakataramea Station.

The charges vary between the different applicants but the Herald understands the combined cost the farmers are facing is in excess of $300,000.

One of the applicants, Gerald Hayman of Hakataramea Station, said he received a bill of $46,000 for the renewal of his water consent to irrigate 105 hectares.

Other applicants' bills are more than $60,000.

The regional council is able to recover the costs associated with processing resource consent applications.

Applicants have the right to object to certain components of those charges under the Resource Management Act.

ECan's regulation hearing committee has appointed commissioner Emma Christmas to hear the case.

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- The Timaru Herald

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