Lindis River issue costing almost $3m

Aquatic habitat ... The Lindis River in spring flow. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The Lindis River in spring flow. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The cost of deciding how much water the Lindis River, near Tarras, should have in it over summer is heading towards the $3 million mark.

The Otago Daily Times has obtained estimated figures from the three main parties involved in an Environment Court appeal hearing due to resume at the end of January. They total $2,883,510.

The Lindis Catchment Group (LCG), representing 52 Lindis and Ardgour Valley water users, estimates its costs to be about $750,000, but likely to reach $1 million.

The Otago Fish & Game Council estimates its external costs to date at $262,284 excluding GST.

And, the Otago Regional Council (ORC) has spent a total so far of $1,871,226, although some of its costs can ultimately be passed on to LCG members.

The appeal - against the ORC's plan change 5A - has been brought by the LCG and ORC.

The dispute is over how much water can be taken from the river for irrigation and how much must be left in the river for trout.

The LCG and the ORC are arguing for the minimum flow to be 550 litres per second, while Fish & Game is calling for 900 litres per second.

The Environment Court is dealing with both the minimum flow issue and resource consent applications from irrigators seeking to replace their historic "deemed permits" that date back to the goldrush.

In answer to an Official Information Act request about costs, ORC legal officer James Gribble said "to date" the total cost to the ORC of the appeal and Environment Court mediation between the parties amounted to $917,656, excluding GST.

"This includes all staff time, consultants and legal fees incurred through the plan change appeal, as well as costs incurred through the processing of the resource consent applications for the replacement of deemed permits.

In addition, the ORC has spent another $953,570 on plan change 5A over the past five years.

The unpaid advocate for the LCG, Graeme Martin, said this week the cost of the process was "ginormous money" and the plan change side "can only be described as an horrendous expenditure, a lot of which in the end analysis will not have been necessary".


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