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Otago Regional councillors have backed off from a suggestion it require water permit holders to install water meters, even though a catchment investigation of the Strath Taieri showed only 48% of inspected takes were compliant.
The installation of meters was one of five measures suggested to improve compliance in the Strath Taieri, in a recent compliance committee report.
There were 75 water takes in the area, 58 of them for irrigation.
Among the problems found by the investigation were records being late, incorrect or not supplied and water takes being more than 100m from their consented location.
Council chairman Stephen Cairns said given the National Environmental Standard for water had not yet been finalised, a move to require water meters now was a "provocative action which could undo all the good action" the council was doing.
Cr Stephen Woodhead said the figures were disappointing and should be a wake-up call for the council and the community.
To manage the region's water effectively, the council needed to know how it was being used, he said.
He supported the suggestion of a meeting between compliance, land management and consent holders to share the report's findings.
Council resource management director Selva Selvarajah said other catchments, such as the Manuherikia, had similar problems.
Other actions to be taken regarding the Strath Taieri were following up issues with the lateness and completeness of reports with consent holders and requiring the 19% of grade five non-compliant consent holders whose takes were in the wrong location to apply for a variation or new consent.