Council seeks water consent

Water consent: The vineyard on Marlborough District Council river reserve land, off Giffords Rd
Water consent: The vineyard on Marlborough District Council river reserve land, off Giffords Rd

The Marlborough District Council is re-applying for a consent to take water from the over-allocated Wairau aquifer after letting its original consent lapse.

The water is used to irrigate a vineyard planted on river reserve land alongside the Wairau River, off Giffords Rd.

The application by council assets and services staff is out for public submission, after being opposed by council groundwater scientists as the aquifer is already over-allocated.

The council's assets and services section put a well on the land and applied for consent to take water in 2008. This was granted in a non-notified process, with the council arguing it would have a less than minor effect.

However, it did not take up the water until 2012, when wine company Constellation Brands planted the land with vines.

When consents are issued, there is a timeframe - usually two years - in which the consent holder must start work or the consent lapses.

Council assets and services manager Mark Wheeler said there had been some delay in sorting out the land for viticulture, with the scouts needing to be re-located and some subdivision having to happen. "There were other users of the land, and various shifting of leases so we could achieve the outcome for ratepayers."

He said it was a "rather grey area" as to whether the water take consent had lapsed, arguing some work had been done with the water.

"It's all rather academic. At the end of the day, it hasn't made any difference . . . there has been no effect on not using that consent in time."

Assets and services had applied for another consent to remove all doubt, he said. "The council is doing the right thing to ensure no question on the legitimacy of it."

Council regulatory manager Hans Versteegh said the council's compliance team had investigated the consent after a complaint, and they had asked the council's lawyers whether it had lapsed.

Versteegh said a "nominal lapse" was built into the resource management legislation.

Public submissions are open on the consent application until next Tuesday. Whether it would be considered at a public hearing would depend on the number of submissions, Versteegh said.

Wheeler said it was a good use of river reserve land to lease it to wine companies for vineyards, providing good income for the council.


The Marlborough Express