Farmers given go-ahead on study

Neil Collins.
Neil Collins.
A group of farmers has gained the Dunedin City Council's support to undertake a pre-feasibility study on using water otherwise wasted from the town supply to irrigate their farms, despite council staff being opposed to the idea.

"We've got to have a council that says how can we do this, rather than no we can't," Cr Neil Collins said, directing his comments at a council water department staff report discussed at the infrastructure services committee meeting yesterday.

Staff recommended councillors not support an information-gathering exercise by the group of Rocklands and Hindon farmers, who want to investigate if water in excess of the city's requirements could be run off from the Deep Stream and Deep Creek water pipes running through their properties, and stored for irrigation.

Asset strategy team leader Tom Osborn said the staff recommendation was because experience told them they could not see the idea feasibly happening, so could not justify council costs for investigating it.

Their experience was the aged pipes did not react well to changes in pressure, which could cause cracks in the line, acting water and waste services manager Laura McElhone said.

Asked by Cr Lee Vandervis if an irrigation take could be feasible when better valve systems were in place in the future, she said there would probably still be other vulnerabilities in the pipeline.

Cr Teresa Stevenson was concerned about setting a precedent with the consent, and asked if there were other options for using the excess water, to which Ms McElhone said staff were looking into it, but preferred not to take unneeded water.

Moving a new recommendation to support the study at no cost to the council, with no promise on future action, and a direction for staff to provide the information the group required, Cr Syd Brown said the study presented no threat to the council or its operations.

".. . [the farmers] think there is an opportunity, they're happy to pick up the tab, to do the investigation to satisfy themselves and to see whether the opportunity is there or not. We should be enabling our citizens to grow their economic base."

Cr Chris Staynes agreed saying it was an opportunity to carry out some early investigation into whether a renewed pipeline in the future might be able to supply town and farmers in a private-public partnership.

Cr Richard Thomson said he supported the study and was disappointed with the staff's paper on the matter, which he felt presented reasons why the study should not happen, instead of talking through possible solutions.

Mayor Dave Cull said the city needed to change its view on the potential of water and as long as the investigation took into account the effects on current infrastructure and supply it should go ahead.

Crs Stevenson and Jinty MacTavish supported the initial study, but called for a high-level report from staff on other ways the excess water supply could be used.

Councillors were spilt six-all on staff drafting an options report, after Cr Vandervis abstained, but the vote was lost after committee chairman Cr Andrew Noone used his casting vote against it, as it was an additional cost that could not be justified.

Farmer Marty Deans said the group was pleased the council had seen the potential.

"Now, we can get the information out of council we need, which was not forthcoming before."

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