A resource consent application has been lodged for the construction of an 8.2 million-cubic metre storage facility for the Waimakariri irrigation scheme, but it could take as long as two years before that water is available to shareholders.
The storage ponds are designed to give irrigators surety of supply, and prevent shutdowns when the Waimakariri River is too low, as happened for 55 days last summer, at an estimated cost of $30 million.
But the proposal has met opposition from local residents, who fear they will be flooded if the dam fails.
The application by Waimakariri Irrigation Ltd (WIL) to build two storage ponds on land in Wrights Rd, near Oxford, has been lodged with Environment Canterbury and the Waimakariri District Council.
WIL has requested that the application be publicly notified.
"This will give the community the opportunity to support, or oppose, the revised resource consent applications," said WIL general manager Brent Walton.
"The Resource Management Act allows people to get involved in deciding what is best for the environment, and we will be guided by the process and outcome of the resource consent hearing."
An application was first lodged in July last year, but after feedback from the council, and from the peer review process, the design was modified from a medium potential impact category, to a high one. Building consent has since been granted.
"The building consent says that we can build that structure on that site, and then the resource consent is about whether it is an appropriate use of that land," said Walton.
Once the resource consent application is publicly notified, WIL plans to hold an open day to answer questions from the public.
"It gives people the opportunity to come along and have a look. We'd go to West Eyreton Hall. We've done a few of them in the past - it's not just lip service, it's demonstrating transparency," Walton said.
He said that within 15 minutes of the application being lodged, the main opposition group, the Eyre Community Environment Safety Society (Ecess), was notified.
"There's absolutely no obligation whatever to do that, but it would be silly not to.
"And that's why we're requesting that it's publicly notified, to actually give everyone the opportunity to have their say."
Walton said that even if consent was granted, and objections did not cause long delays, it would take up to two years to get the ponds up and running.
"One of the issues is that you can't lay the liner in the winter time, or not that successfully.
"You've got to lay the liner on to a reasonably fine dirt, and what they found down at the Mayfield Hinds ponds, and also the Rangitata ones, is if that got any rain or frost on, it just turns to pus, and they couldn't actually work on it. It's got to be relatively dry for them to be able to lay that liner.
"The construction timetable is probably 15 to 18 months, so it depends when it's started and finished, how it coincides with the season. Potentially, it could be another two years before there's water in there."
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