Water consents drag on

The Ohau canal near Twizel. Photo by Trevor Nixon.
The Ohau canal near Twizel. Photo by Trevor Nixon.
Farmers wanting more water for irrigation from the upper Waitaki catchment are working through issues associated with 110 resource consent applications, but the process is taking longer than expected.

The consent applications are being considered by an Environment Canterbury (ECan) panel, which adjourned a hearing which started last September and occupying 13 weeks, with breaks in between, in May.

The panel sent applicants, including three companies who had proposed 16 new dairy farms in the Omarama and Ohau areas, away to prepare proposed conditions for consents in consultation with ECan officers and submitters. That was expected to take between four and eight weeks, but the process has now lasted almost six months.

A week ago, the panel's patience ran out and Mr Rogers asked all applicants to update it on where the conditions process stood and when they could be expected.

Some of the submitters - the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird and Mackenzie Guardians - have told the panel they have heard nothing and seen no conditions, but still wanted to be involved.

Applicants and ECan officers have also told the panel the process is is taking longer than expected.

That includes the Upper Waitaki Applicant Group, which represents a consortium of individual applicants which have 70 applications lodged between them.

The group's counsel, Ewan Chapman, said it had had ongoing discussions with ECan officers, other applicants' advisers and technical advisers over the consent conditions.

Where possible, this had led to common conditions and a constant framework for the group's applicants, but some needed separate conditions to deal with individual circumstances.

The process had been productive and would result in a more developed suite of conditions for the panel's consideration.

Specific wording of conditions had been more time consuming than originally forecast.

ECan consents project leader Anita Warnock, who is overseeing the upper Waitaki consents process, said some conditions were ready for the panel and others were with other parties for comment.

Meridian Energy Ltd, which is closely involved because of the effect new water takes could have on its Waitaki hydro-generation system, had participated in the process.

Legal counsel Ben Williams said it had reviewed a large number of conditions, but had yet to receive all final conditions.

Complicating the process was the recent decisions on ECan's Natural Resources Regional Plan (NRRP) which would have to be taken into account, he said.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz