The Tarras water race, which carries water from the Lindis
River to irrigate land in the area. Part of the Tarras
district has no access to this irrigation scheme and the
new scheme would be supplied from the Clutha River, a more
reliable water source. Photo by Mark Price.
Federated is among the many to speak out against the
Otago Regional Council putting funding into the irrigation
scheme proposed by Tarras Water Ltd.
A proposal for the council to invest $3.5 million in
redeemable preference shears in the $39.2 million scheme,
through changing its long-term plan, was put out for public
consultation last year.
Sixty-seven individuals, families and organisations made
submissions on the proposal, about 77% of which were against
the council contributing funding to the scheme.
Some of those views will be heard by the Otago Regional
Council at hearings in Dunedin and Cromwell next week. The
panel comprises Crs Sam Neill (chairman), Doug Brown, Louise
Croot, Gerry Eckhoff and council chairman Stephen Woodhead.
Federated Farmers which, while it supports irrigation in
Otago, believed investment in a commercial enterprise was not
a ''core'' council function.
''We are concerned at the precedent that this proposal sets
for council involvement in other areas of the private
sector,'' its submission said.
Fish and Game Otago also opposed the council's involvement,
raising the issue that it represented a ''serious conflict of
interest'' and should be avoided, chief executive Niall
Watson said in its submission.
The conflict of interest argument was one used by many of
those who submitted, including Emeritus Prof Alan Mark, who
said the council must be objective and impartial in its
decisions on allocating water.
''Having a ... investment in an irrigation company ... would
be highly inappropriate.''
Artist Grahame Sydney said logically, the council could not
be both investor and regulator.
Other submitters, including cartoonist Garrick Tremain, said
the council should not be looking to invest ratepayer money
in a private enterprise.
''The ORC is not a bank and this is not what we pay our rates
for,'' Lynne Stewart said.
Submitters, including the Central Otago Environmental
Society, also believed the scheme would have no wider benefit
for the region and others thought it would only increase
dairying in an area not suitable not for such industry.
Those that supported the proposal did so believing it would
provide long-term social and economic sustainability for
Tarras and benefit the wider region.
The hearings will be held on January 31 in Dunedin and
February 1 in Cromwell.
Mr Woodhead has welcomed the Government's announcement this
week that it will establish a company to act as a bridging
investor for regional infrastructure development.
However, he did not believe it would impact on the council's
consideration of the Tarras proposal, as the scheme was ahead
of the Government's funding round and was probably not of the
size to qualify for it.
The council was due to make its decision on Tarras at its
February 20 meeting and Tarras Water Ltd would then issue its
It was possible future Otago schemes, such as one in
Manuherikia, could qualify.
It was a ''wait and see'' situation as to whether the
Government's plans would take the pressure off the regional
council for funding requests, Mr Woodhead said.