Cass River scheme gets thumbs down

An application to irrigate a large chunk of North Canterbury land has been declined because of its "potential effects on the environment".

P&E Ltd applied for resource consents to divert, take and use water from the Cass River for spray irrigation of pasture for grazing sheep and beef cattle for 35 years, and to disturb the bed of the river.

The company owns more than 550 hectares near Lake Grasmere.

The land it wanted to irrigate was on both sides of State Highway 73, just east of Arthur's Pass National Park.

However, opponents said increased irrigation and stock numbers would compromise the water quality of Lake Grasmere and its tributaries, and change the landscape along the highway.

An Environment Canterbury (ECan) hearing was held last month.

In a written decision, commissioner Robert Nixon declined the application because of its potential impact on landscape values and water quality.

"Ultimately, it is for a want of caution with respect to this sensitive environment that has led me to conclude that the potential adverse effects of the activity on the environment would be more than minor."

He said centre pivot irrigators would have a "significant adverse visual effect on an area containing significant landscape values" and the cost of rectifying contaminated water bodies was very high and possibly irreversible.

Green Party MP Eugenie Sage said the decision was a good result for the Cass River and Lake Grasmere and was a tribute to the public submissions.

"The decision recognises the area's outstanding landscape values and the impact irrigation would have had on these and water quality."

Fish & Game officer Scott Pearson said granting the consent would have set a dangerous precedent of allowing irrigation in the "pristine" high country.

P & E Ltd declined to comment on the decision.

The Press