Govt help offered on consents

David Parker
David Parker
Government support has been offered to the Otago Regional Council to help it process new water consents in Otago, as fresh concerns are raised about the council's ability to meet the 2021 deadline for the work.

Environment Minister David Parker this week confirmed he was concerned the expiry of historic water permits remained "a challenge" for the council.

He met council representatives when he was in Dunedin last week on World Water Day and "iterated his offer for officials from the Ministry for the Environment to support council officers to develop an approach" to setting minimum flows in catchments with expiring deemed permits.

Former Otago Fish&Game Council chief executive Niall Watson had written to Mr Parker earlier this month, on behalf of Fish&Game chief executive Ian Hadland, requesting Fish&Game representatives meet the minister to discuss their concerns about the regional council's handling of the transition of historic deemed permits.

The permits, which all came from historic mining privileges, lapse in October 2021, and all water users will need new Resource Management Act consents for irrigated water by then.

Mr Watson said there was a "deepening crisis" in Otago because of the "lack of an adequate policy framework" for managing the issue, and the regional council's current water plan provisions were "not fit for purpose" in dealing with the applications for new consents.

There was also a lack of "quality hydrological information" to support ORC decisions in priority catchments, and concerns about its policy on efficiency of water use.

Another Fish&Game letter, from Mr Hadland, has been sent to the council's chief executive Sarah Gardiner, raising concerns about the ORC's published science advice on Manuherikia River flows.

"The report has information gaps and areas where advice deviates from what we consider good science, through the use of inappropriate methodologies and through mixing science advice with planning considerations."

ORC acting general manager policy, science and strategy, Andrew Newman, replied to Otago Daily Times questions saying the response "does not respond to all of the points in Fish&Game's agenda, but refers to the council's approach moving forward".

"Under the framework of the national policy statement for freshwater management, ORC will develop a technical working group and a community reference strategy group for the Manuherikia. Fish&Game Otago will be invited to be participants of these groups," Mr Newman said.

"These forums will provide an opportunity to clarify and debate issues and agree on the science and technical issues related to this catchment, as well as agreeing on a durable regulatory framework for the management of the river."

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