Native fish 'at risk' if Aparima take rises

HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 22/08/2013

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Environment Southland is considering whether to take more water from the Aparima River for irrigation purposes.

One of its councillors, Jan Riddell, has expressed concerns that native fish will be at risk if more water is taken.

The regional council's environmental management committee considered a staff report on the minimum-flow requirements of the Aparima River at a meeting yesterday.

The goal of the report was to determine the minimum flow required to ensure the adult brown trout habitat remained intact, but to still provide for an increasing demand for water used for irrigation.

In the report, surface water scientist Lawrence Kees recommends a minimum-flow cutoff of 1.43 cubic metres a second at the Dunrobin flow recorder, and a minimum-flow cutoff of 2.28 cumecs at the Wreys Bush-Winton highway bridge. This was based on a study to determine the requirements for adult brown trout habitat. At present, water cannot be taken from the river for irrigation for about 20 days a year but if the staff recommendation is accepted that number would be reduced to 13 days a year, the report says.

Cr Riddell said she was "most unhappy" with the report, because it did not show any research for other native fish species that could be affected by the river's minimum flow.

"Two-thirds of New Zealand's native fish species are in decline. This report doesn't consider other species, especially the juvenile longfin eel," she said.

Cr Riddell said she believed the policy by which the minimum flow was determined was flawed.

"The tiny flows we're setting as a minimum for the sake of six extra days of irrigation . . . this isn't sustainable. We're getting this wrong, the policy is wrong."

While the policy worked well for some rivers in Southland, it did not work for the Aparima, she said.

Environment Southland councillors decided to seek further information before making a decision.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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