River plan does not stack up - Ngai Tahu

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 07:05 22/02/2013

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More study is required before resource consent is granted to irrigate a large chunk of North Canterbury high country, Ngai Tahu says.

An Environment Canterbury hearing started this week into whether P&E Ltd will be granted resource consents to divert and use water from the Cass River. The firm wants to irrigate pasture to graze sheep and beef cattle for 35 years.

The company owns more than 550 hectares near Lake Grasmere. The land it wishes to irrigate is on both sides of State Highway 73, just east of Arthur's Pass National Park.

Ngai Tahu opposed the plan because of a lack of information about the effect on the Cass River system and the quality of Lake Grasmere or Grasmere Stream, Sandra McIntyre, who spoke on the tribe's behalf, said yesterday.

"Ngai Tahu believes that this part of the Canterbury high country is culturally, ecologically, and aesthetically very special and that there is a duty on those farming within it to tread lightly. Ngai Tahu was concerned about protecting remaining healthy water bodies.

"A specific concern is that both water quality and flow should be sufficient to ensure the sustainability of mahinga kai resources so that whanau can maintain their traditions and customary uses."

Earlier this week, University of Canterbury professor of freshwater ecology Angus McIntosh said the proposal would have more than minor effects on the environment.

"Key aspects as to the effect on the existing environment have not been properly assessed," McIntosh said.

Ngai Tahu is concerned granting the consents could potentially undermine the protection provided by the Waimakariri Regional Resource Plan for sensitive high country freshwater resources.

The hearing is expected to finish today, with P&E Ltd's reply.

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