High country farm wins water access appeal in court

Last updated 06:59 17/06/2014

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A high country station in the Mackenzie Country will be allowed to continue taking water from the Irishman Creek following a 13-year battle, the Environment Court has ruled.

Irishman Creek Station Ltd has won an appeal against a decision made by Environment Canterbury (ECan) in 2012 which placed 14 pages of conditions on the station's resource consent, allowing it to take water from the Irishman Creek.

The station lodged an initial application with the regional council in 2001 to replace a consent that had been in operation since 1969.

The application got caught up in special legislation for the allocation of water in the Waitaki Catchment, and was finally heard in Christchurch between September 2009 and April 2010.

The decision was delayed because of Canterbury's earthquakes and was finally released in two parts in November 2011 and March 2012.

Irishman Creek Station was unhappy with the conditions put on the water permit by the regional council and appealed to the Environment Court.

Station run-holder Justin Wills was overseas and unavailable for comment yesterday, but a letter written to ECan in 2010 said the 14 pages of conditions included "considerable" ongoing monitoring costs and he had found the process "dispiriting".

"We are one very small applicant simply trying to renew a consent that we have held since 1970," he wrote.

"The larger applicants will accept the costs and conditions as they will be able to absorb them, whilst the smaller operator like ourselves, who believe fervently in the traditional manner in which we operate, will slowly fade away."

In a decision issued last week, Judge Jon Jackson upheld the appeal, saying it was "appropriate to grant the renewal".

He believed adequate ecological safeguards had been included in the station's proposed conditions, including measures to protect fish and install devices to measure water flow and how much water was taken.

The ruling will allow Irishman Creek Station to continue diverting up to 140 litres of water per second to irrigate 48 hectares of pasture and fodder crops for grazing stock, as it had done since 1969. 

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- The Timaru Herald

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