ORC under fire at meeting

Otago Regional Council representatives speak to a group of about 50 irrigators at a minimum flow...
Otago Regional Council representatives speak to a group of about 50 irrigators at a minimum flow information session in Cromwell yesterday. From left: Deputy chairwoman Gretchen Robertson, chief executive Sarah Gardner and policy planning and resource management director Tanya Winter.PHOTO: TOM KITCHIN
The community demanded the Otago Regional Council take action to improve a proposed minimum flow plan for three Central Otago catchments at public meetings in Cromwell yesterday, saying not all pieces of the puzzle were there.

The council plans to complete a plan change to set minimum flows for the Arrow, Upper Cardrona and Manuherikia Rivers because of the change from deemed permits to Resource Management Act consents by 2021.

Two community consultation sessions were held in Cromwell yesterday - a meeting for irrigation companies and a meeting for permit holders and community groups.

At the meeting for permit holders and community groups, farmer and former regional councillor Gary Kelliher said the minimum flow numbers the regional council suggested for the Manuherikia were ``totally unachievable''.

``It's disappointing that this council is prepared to present these numbers now when it doesn't have the economic, social and cultural impact of those numbers.

``It's misleading to the people of this community by presenting numbers now without all the pieces of the puzzle.''

Council deputy chairwoman Gretchen Robertson said the council wanted to discuss the change with stakeholders before it was too late.

``We felt it was better to come along earlier rather than later, and show you what we've come to at this point, and be quite open that it's been derived through the pieces of the puzzle that are there.

``We just want to be upfront and say `this is the plan change we are thinking of'.

``We want to be more efficient in the process, and at the moment we are thinking of doing three together.''

Viticulturist Robin Schulz said the Manuherikia minimum flow requirements the council was suggesting would force his business to close.

``As a shareholder of one of the bigger takes of the Manuherikia, I'm flabbergasted you come to this meeting with half the information.

``[The numbers] you have there will make our enterprise close down. That's 30 permanent jobs ... you need to reconvene this meeting before you notify this proposal.''

The council hoped to notify the plan change by the end of August this year but some at the meeting doubted this was possible with the lack of information the council had.

Council chief executive Sarah Gardner said so far, there had been four public workshops on the plan change - two in Dunedin earlier this month and two in Cromwell yesterday.

More workshops, which may or may not be in a town hall format, would be held by August 31 with various stakeholders once the council had ``more information''.

Mrs Gardner could not say when that would be.

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