Horizons looks into Barrow's water use

00:00, Feb 16 2011

A Horizons regional councillor is being investigated for alleged breaches of water consent conditions on his farm near Dannevirke.

But John Barrow, the councillor for Tararua and the region's former Federated Farmers president, said farmers were being targeted by Horizons staff, many of whom were unaware of how to comply with consents.

"It is easy to say what you can and can't do. It is a hell of a lot harder to put it into practice," he said.

Mr Barrow was expecting to be served an environment consent abatement notice and two non-compliance orders at Horizons' building in Palmerston North yesterday.

But they were not issued and Horizons is now investigating what went on at Mr Barrow's farm. "They should have done that before they thought about issuing notices," he said.

Council chairman Bruce Gordon confirmed an investigation was going ahead, while chief executive Michael McCartney said: "Alleged non-compliance by a council representative has been brought to our attention and we will be investigating this, as is our normal procedure.

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"It is not appropriate for us to make any further comment at this time."

Meanwhile, Mr Barrow was angry at the process.

"I am very unhappy, not only that I am being targeted in this way, but farmers are having to go through this, being fined, abated or whatever, before an investigation."

He said he stood for council to deal with such issues.

Mr Barrow said Horizons was going to fine him before it carried out any inquiry into why its records showed he had taken more water than he had consent for.

"I have been pulling my hair out trying to fix the irrigator that shows that it takes more water than it actually does."

He has put in a new water gauge, but the replacement was faulty too, Mr Barrow said, and he had been working with a Hawke's Bay irrigation consultant.

"The recorder on my pump measures too much water. So in reality, I am probably using less than the recorder shows."

Those increased water-take figures go to Horizons, he said.

Mr Barrow met with Mr Gordon and Mr McCartney yesterday afternoon.

"If everything is found to be as I have said, in all probability, there will be no further action. But that [the investigation] should have taken place first, not second."

Horizons said it was charged with managing the region's natural and physical resources. Some activities are allowed only with resource consent.

It said those were the tools for rationing out scarce resources. Consents were monitored to make sure that holders were complying.

Many dairy farmers had never been outside their consents and had not been issued with non-compliance notices.

MANAGING RESOURCES

A resource consent is necessary for such things as:

Discharging dairy shed effluent.

Discharging contaminants to water, air or on to land.

Disturbing vegetation on erosion prone land.

Taking water (for example for irrigation or stock water).

Manawatu Standard