Mediation planned on water problems

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 12:58 16/05/2014

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Three appeals have been lodged against Tasman District Council plan changes relating to water management on the Waimea Plains.

The appellants, Horticulture New Zealand, Nelson-Marlborough Fish and Game, and Queen Street Industrial Park Ltd, plus related parties, will go into mediation with the council.

The council's environment and planning policy manager Steve Markham said all of the appellants sought changes to the plan in a "no-dam" scenario.

Queen Street Industrial Park, a conglomeration of Lower Queen St industrial landowners whose properties are largely undeveloped or yet to connect to the Richmond water supply, seeks to have the minimum flow at the mouth of the Waimea River set at 650 litres a second.

The company also wants its water take managed the same way as community water supplies, which have more favourable limits in times of drought.

Horticulture NZ seeks changes including that food production irrigation be distinguished from other types of rural water take and an exemption from the proposed plan's lowest water cut of 30 percent of future authorised water permits in order to keep rootstock alive in times of drought.

Fish and Game seeks a cease take when the Waimea River falls to 800 litres a second in its lower reaches and the council deal with future over-allocations under the no-dam scenario by 2030.

The council advertised the four proposed plan changes to the Tasman Resource Management Plan to recognise the proposed Lee Valley Community Dam's ability to improve water supply in the Waimea Plains.

The dam is proposed to augment natural flows by controlled summer releases which would allow a greater security of groundwater takes during summer droughts.

The plain's water supplies horticultural and industrial users and the communities of Richmond, Brightwater, Wakefield, Mapua and Ruby Bay and southern Stoke.

Hearings took place last November before independent commissioners, who reported their changes in February.

They took legal effect in March through a council decision and were then opened for submissions.

The decisions recognised the planning around the dam and set arrangements for managing water allocation both with and without the proposed dam, Markham said.

He said in times of drought the current over-allocation of the Waimea's surface and ground water takes opened the door to irreversible saltwater intrusion in the coastal aquifers, extreme stress to the river's aquatic environment and created barriers to future economic production and urban investment.

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The council had allowed urban water allocations enough head room to supply currently deferred plan changes.

But that would only supply the planned 55 hectares of residential development which was predicted to be taken up over the next 25 years, he said.

Whether the dam went ahead or not the council would revise irrigation permits across the plains which expired in 2016-17.

The new permits would be allocated on the permits holders' actual and reasonable history of water use over several years, he said.

Markham said in a no-dam situation an additional fourth rationing step would be introduced which would cut authorised takes to 30 per cent.

"By 2020, if there is no dam, we will be looking to review and reduce the authorised takes further," he said.

Utilities asset manager Jeff Cuthbertson said if there was not a dam by the time the council's growing urban Waimea water users had used the community water allocation, the council would have to look at alternative means of obtaining water.

The council's call on if the dam would go ahead had to be made by July 1 next year so its funding could be part of its 2015-2025 long term plan.

- The Nelson Mail

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