Farmers upset by ORC's planned flood bylaw

Taieri farmers, including a former councillor, have criticised the Otago Regional Council's proposed flood protection bylaw and the way consultation was conducted.

Seven of 13 organisations and individuals which made submissions on the council's proposed flood protection bylaw were heard yesterday by a panel of councillors - Michael Deaker (chairman), Stephen Woodhead and David Shepherd.

The bylaw, which will replace a similar one from 1999, aims to manage, regulate and protect flood protection works belonging to, or under the control of, the council. The works include drains and defences against water and floodways.

Lower Taieri farmer and former regional councillor Colin Scurr said the bylaw needed to be streamlined to make it practicable and usable.

"I understand the need to control floodways, but the way it is set out is a bit excessive."

The controls did not seem to allow for normal farming activities such as digging a hole to bury a dead animal or depositing fill around water troughs, Mr Scurr said.

Normal farming activities need to be carried out without prior authority from the council, he said. Collecting fees for permission to do work in flood protection areas would put farmers off applying.

The council had failed to do an adequate job implementing the 1999 bylaw by not correcting faulty structures in scheduled drains, he said.

It needed to raise awareness of the bylaw as few landowners were aware of their responsibilities, Mr Scurr said.

Otokia and Henley farmer Ian Bryant called for the panel to delay the introduction of the bylaw's excavation-sensitive areas as many people affected did not know about its possible effects.

A large part of his farm, his house and his parents' house were in this zone which could have major implications for the value of his properties, insurance and any future development plans, he said. He had not seen seepage problems on his property before and he had lived in the area all his life.

Berwick farmer Michael Lord was also concerned about the implications of being in the sensitive zone and had reservations about the methodology used.

He also had reservations about having to pay for permission to do works in those areas and not being able to graze close to floodbanks.

The Department of Conservation raised concerns about any work in drains or along the banks which could affect habitats and food source of galaxiids, some species of which were threatened.

Council manager engineering operations Ramon Strong said it was never the intention of the bylaw to inhibit normal farming activity.

Cr Deaker adjourned the hearing for councillors to consider the evidence before reporting to next week's full council meeting.

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