Irrigation company's lawyer claims photos 'wildly misleading'

One of the photos a lawyer for the Benmore Irrigation Company referred to as "wildly misleading". The arrows point to ...
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One of the photos a lawyer for the Benmore Irrigation Company referred to as "wildly misleading". The arrows point to areas the company wishes to irrigate.

Photos presented in a resource consent application hearing related to the Ohau Basin are "wildly misleading", a lawyer for the applicants says.

Benmore Irrigation Company (BIC) wants to extend its irrigable area from 4000ha to 7658ha and discharge nutrients to water.

The area covered by BIC is between Lake Ruataniwha and Little Ben, towards Omarama.

Farmers at the hearing for the proposed irrigation expansion, from left, Henry Williamson, Bill Sutherland, Dave Ellis, ...
HELEN TATHAM/FAIRFAX NZ

Farmers at the hearing for the proposed irrigation expansion, from left, Henry Williamson, Bill Sutherland, Dave Ellis, Barry Shepherd and David Gordon.

Lawyer Ewan Chapman, representing BIC, said in the hearing on Friday it was "somewhat disappointing" photographs provided by a landscape expert on behalf of Environment Canterbury (ECan) were not dated and referred to them as "wildly misleading".

David Caldwell chaired the week-long hearing, which finished on Friday, with other panel members Sharon McGarry and Hoani Langsbury.

During the week, the commissioners visited sites where development was proposed and the lawyer asked them to draw their own conclusions when making a decision on BIC's application.

ECan's report on the application was presented at the hearing on Friday including rebuttal of evidence given by BIC's landscape expert.

Christopher Glasson, contributing landscape information on behalf of ECan, said part of the area covered by BIC's application east of the Ostler Fault was already "highly modified" by intensive agriculture, pivot irrigators and associated structures.

He said large geometric circular patterns were "highly visible" from SH8, within BIC's currently irrigated area.

He described west of the Ostler Fault as "a higher quality of natural environment" with expansive views to the mountains, pockets of native vegetation prevalent, and areas of tussock and matagouri being common features of the landscape. He said it was a high-value, sensitive landscape of national significance.

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He described tawny colouring of the land, open vistas and lack of intensive farming representative of the Mackenzie Basin and readily accessible to recreational visitors.

"The visitor is able to experience the landscape in a multitude of different aspects in different ways from walking, cycling and vehicular routes to higher more panoramic vantage points afforded from along the Greta track, Glen Lyon Road and Ohau ski field," Glasson said.

Chapman, in his reply to the evidence and report by ECan said the commissioners were being told what ECan's experts wanted them to see rather than what he hoped they saw on the site visit.

He said the grassland on the west of the fault was "far from tawny or ochre".

"If you move to a distant vista it is, but it is not the case immediately you come over the rise (on the Ostler Fault)," Chapman said.

He also pointed out that many people giving evidence or information supporting ECan's report had not visited the sites or had visited infrequently and at the wrong time of year.

He said witnesses talking about significant ecology on the site were not specific about the names of plants and species they believed would be affected.

"When I hear that ecosystems will be lost and not safeguarded in terms of this proposal, that is absolutely pie in the sky," Chapman said.

He said for some birds such as the black stilt, the habitat is improved with irrigation.

"You should not make a decision to lock up an area of land and throw away the keys, that would be disastrous for farmers and the ecology of this district. This land, in my submission, clearly needs managing," Chapman said.

Chapman has 10 days to file his written response to evidence given in the hearing. The commissioners will provide their decision within a further 15 days.

 - Stuff

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