River flow photos released in wake of public demand

Following public demand for evidence of what the Manuherikia River would look like under various minimum flows, the Otago Regional Council has released a suite of photos of the river at different flows.

The council has published 20 photos on its website, showing what the river looks like at flows ranging between 922 litres per second (l/s) and 3780 l/s.

The photographs have been taken from the same viewpoint, the Little Valley Road Bridge, which is 580m downstream from the Alexandra campground.

There are two views, upstream and downstream of the bridge.

The photos were taken from 2013-19.

The council is consulting on five minimum-flow scenarios, increasing incrementally from 1200 l/s to 3000 l/s.

Not included in the scenarios is the status quo of 900 l/s and 4000 l/s, which the Central Otago Environmental Society has suggested would be best for river health.

The five flow scenarios are not popular with irrigators and farmers who have demanded more evidence of what the flow levels look like.

Hundreds of people attended public meetings last week to raise concerns about the future of the district economy, businesses, and employment prospects.

New freshwater regulations implemented in 2020 require regional councils to make river health and wellbeing the first priority, above the wellbeing of people and communities.

Minimum flows are designed to maintain environmental out comes, such as ecosystem health, good swimming, and low risk of nuisance algae.

They must also support Maori iwi cultural values such as mahika kai (food collecting) and mana whenua (care for the land).

Regional council documents state stopping irrigation at 3000 l/s would severely stress farm viability.

Stopping irrigation at 2000 l/s would affect farm viability and land valuations, while stopping at 1200 l/s would slightly improve ecosystem health, but nuisance algae would persist, and farm irrigation would be fine but could experience a modest reduction.



THANK YOU ODT for putting in English the translation of Maori words in this article!
Not everyone knows Maori, so it's appreciated that your newspaper translates the increasing use of Maori words, used in reports from councils and government departments.

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