Concern over lower river level plan

Moves by Meridian Energy aimed at further lowering Waitaki River levels are worrying river users.

Proposed changes to Environment Canterbury's Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Regional Plan were discussed at the Lower Waitaki River Management Society's meeting in Glenavy last night.

Some of the main points up for discussion included security of supply for holders of existing water consents, Mahinga Kai (freshwater fish species) allocation and activities around hydro-electricity generation.

The plan change affects the whole Waitaki catchment, with the exception of security of supply for existing consent-holders, which relates to the reach below the Waitaki Dam.

Some of the minor amendments relate only to the operation of the Waitaki Dam.

The biggest issue for those who use the Waitaki catchment areas, however, especially those who fish, is the plan to reduce river flows from 150 cubic metres per second (cumecs) to 102 cumecs over the summer period, according to Central South Island Fish and Game councillor Lin Koevoet.

"There are other changes, but if they go ahead and change things they can never be changed again."

Koevoet said when changes were made to plan around the North Bank Tunnel Project involving Meridian Energy, there were around 40 pages of conditions that had to be met.

"This plan has come out with no conditions attached, so there's no protection at all to the environment . . . they are our main concerns."

Public submissions on Environment Canterbury's plan close on August 22.

The Timaru Herald