Opponents to Water Conservation Order put on notice by applicants

Last updated 13:56 14/09/2017

Hawke's Bay orchardists Jerf Van Beek and Brian McClay put up signs ahead of rally opposing an application for a Water Conservation Order on the Ngaruroro River.

The Ngaruroro River catchment, Hawke's Bay.
The lower Ngaruroro River, between Napier and Hastings.
Federated Farmers president Katie Milne and other farming leaders met on the Ngaruroro River last month and pledged to make all New Zealand rivers swimmable.

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Environmental groups claim orchardists and irrigators are trying to intimidate them into withdrawing an application for a Water Conservation Order in Hawke's Bay.

The allegation has been made in memorandum from applicants seeking the order on the Ngaruroro River.

In December 2015 five parties applied for the order; Fish and Game, Forest and Bird, Ngāti Hori ki Kohupatiki, Whitewater New Zealand and Jet Boating New Zealand. 

The Special Tribunal to hear the application is holding a pre-hearing in Napier on Friday.


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Opponents have employed a local PR company and are running a highly publicised campaign against the application, with numerous billboards, newspaper advertisements and a push on social media. A protest rally is planned for next week.

They claim the order would result in hundreds of job losses and they believe the matter should be resolved locally without interference from bodies outside the region.

In a memorandum to the tribunal lodged on Wednesday the applicants raise concerns about public statements made by opponents. They say the opponents intend to "diminish long standing community respect for the applicants", "intimidate the applicants into withdrawing the WCO application", "influence the Special Tribunal" or "seek political interference in the WCO process, regionally and nationally".

"The tenor of many statements to the media is disrespectful of the process and the role and independence of the Tribunal," the applicants said.

It noted that some of the statements "may have negative consequences for the consistency and credibility of the submitters' own cases".

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It was clear to the applicants that some of the statements had shown a level of misunderstanding on the opponents' part, and misrepresentation of the proposed minimum flows and allocation limits.

The applicants said the draft WCO had the intent of preventing any new water takes during times of low river flow and retained the current water allocation regime through the lower river for existing users.

Under the draft order, the current minimum flow of 2,400 litres per second on the Ngaruroro River at Fernhill would remain, while new applications would need to keep to a minimum flow of 4,200 litres per second.

At flows less than three times average at Fernhill (just under 71,000 litres per second), the allocation limit would be 1581 litres per second, which the applicants say is already the allocated limit under the Regional Resource Management Plan.

They also "invite the Tribunal to provide the parties to the Special Tribunal process with strong guidance on appropriate conduct in the public arena, including the proposed public rally, while the application is under consideration to ensure the process is fair, respectful of all interests, and is able to follow due process".

Opponents did not want to comment on the memorandum.

The Ngaruroro is the region's second largest river, with a catchment covering about 2000square kilometres. It has sources in the Kaimanawa, Kaweka and northern Ruahine Ranges and flows in south-easterly direction before entering the Pacific Ocean between Napier and Hastings.

The applicants say the river has outstanding values and they want protection of the entire length of the river and its tributaries and the groundwater that is hydraulically connected to the Lower Ngaruroro River.

There are about 85 water take consents in the lower Ngaruroro catchment, with a report in 2010 finding it was over-allocated. Most of the water is used on pastoral and orchard land.

- Stuff


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