Benmore Irrigation Company shareholders 'hugely disappointed' by decison against resource consent

Sailors Cutting on the southern side on the Ahuriri arm of Lake Benmore an area Fish and Game is concerned would be ...
John Bisset

Sailors Cutting on the southern side on the Ahuriri arm of Lake Benmore an area Fish and Game is concerned would be contaminated by run off from farms.

Benmore Irrigation Company shareholders are "hugely disappointed" after an application to extend the area it irrigates in the Mackenzie Basin was declined, chairman Henry Williamson says.

The company applied for resource consent to increase its irrigation area by 3666.5ha to 7658ha and to discharge onto land nitrates that may enter water.

Commissioners declined the application due to effects on the landscape, water quality and local ecology.

Galaxias Macronasus a nationally vulnerable fish which would possibly be impacted by farm runoff if Benmore Irrigation ...
Supplied

Galaxias Macronasus a nationally vulnerable fish which would possibly be impacted by farm runoff if Benmore Irrigation Company's resource consent was approved.

"Overall while there may be some minor economic benefits, and potentially environmental benefits in terms of soil erosion and control of weed species, the adverse effects are significant," the commissioners' said in a written decision.

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* Irrigation application declined

View of Ahuriri River west of Omarama in winter.
David Hallett

View of Ahuriri River west of Omarama in winter.

The company has 15 days in which to appeal.

​The existing irrigation scheme traverses the flats which run from Lake Ruataniwha, the Ohau River and the canals south towards Omarama along both sides of SH8 except for Buscot Station and Little Ben, which are separated by a range of hills.

Irrigation is currently by spray using centre pivots and K-line with some border dyke irrigation.

Six of the company's eight shareholder properties would have benefited from the additional irrigation area.

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Williamson on Wednesday said shareholders were still going over the decision and had not moved towards an appeal.

"We have had a conversation with our lawyer when [the decision] came out," he said.

"We are in the process of reviewing the decision and once that is completed we will make a decision where to from here."

The hearings panel considered a raft of submissions at a hearing in October. The application was supported by Federated Farmers' high country division. Another 21 submissions, including a report from ECan, opposed the plan.

In their decision, the commissioners said there was high potential risk of further degradation of localised water quality, which would have cumulative impact on water quality in Lake Benmore. 

They accepted a description of the landscape being "highly modified with its character being dominated by intensive agriculture, pivot irrigators and associated ancillary structures". 

They agreed the landscape was visibly different on the east and west sides of the Ostler Fault with one highly-irrigated basin between Omarama and Twizel, and the Ohau basin to the west.

"We agree that bare ground, stony and/or depleted areas are an inherent characteristic of the Mackenzie Basin's alluvial and moraine ecosystems and that they provide important habitats for a distinctive suite of indigenous plant and invertebrate species including many rare and threatened species.

"No mitigation or offset has been proffered to avoid or compensate for the direct and total loss of at least 1250ha of significant ecological values.

Central South Island Fish and Game Council resource officer Angela Christensen said Lake Benmore is the second most fished lake in New Zealand next to Lake Taupo so there is high interest in fishery values there.

"The smaller water bodies of Lake Benmore provide spawning habitat and juvenile recruitment for our sports fishery," she said.

ECan reports show degradation in Benmore waterways over several years, she said.

"There is not a lot of certainty where the contaminant would end up whether Haldon Arm or Ahuriri Arm. 

"Fish and Game is pleased with the commissioners' decision and think the commissioners considered the environment adequately."

Department of Conservation senior ranger for biodiversity assets Dean Nelson said DOC

felt strongly about the impact of nutrient run off from farms on fresh water fish, particularly the Galaxias Macronasus endemic to Willowburn Stream. 

The fish was discovered and described in 2001 and was classified as nationally vulnerable, Nelson said.

"We will wait and see what comes, whether they [BIC] want to appeal it," he said.

 

 - Stuff

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