Meeting promised pipeline solution

Thousands of pipes are stored near the base of the Waitaki dam, ready to be laid in the Kurow...
Thousands of pipes are stored near the base of the Waitaki dam, ready to be laid in the Kurow Duntroon Irrigation Company upgrade project. Photo: Gus Patterson
In front of a crowded Kurow Memorial Hall, Waitaki District Council chief executive Fergus Power promised a "pragmatic" and "fair and just" resolution to a now controversial irrigation pipeline construction project under way in the Waitaki Valley.

The council issued an abatement notice to the Kurow-Duntroon Irrigation Co late last month, ordering it to stop work on above-ground sections of the pipeline adjoining the Waitaki River near Kurow in its $45million upgrade through the valley.

Mr Power said with talks ongoing with the company he would not discuss the matter in detail.

"We wish we weren't here, but we will deal with it very justly," Mr Power said. "Between the council and the company we will find a pragmatic solution.

"It won't be perfect; we're past that now."

The irrigation company is replacing about 44km of ageing open canal with 37km of piped irrigation infrastructure, but after growing public concern the pipeline next to State Highway 83 was spoiling views in the area, the council investigated and found the work to be non-compliant with the company's land-use consent, which stated the pipeline was to be below the road at what is known locally as the cemetery bluffs.

Kurow-Duntroon Irrigation Co chairman Geoff Keeling fronted for the company at the meeting, to explain why the pipeline had been constructed above the road in that section and to say the company was investigating "an engineering solution".

"Yes, we're in breach of the condition where it said it should be below the crown of the road - there's no denying that," Mr Keeling said.

"We have put council in a very awkward position and if it had been built to the wording of the consent, we wouldn't be here tonight."

The meeting's organiser, Eve Skerrett, owner of Bobbing Creek Vineyard, said: "This big ugly structure does not match the values of the community."

Visibility was a "huge issue" in the consent, she said.

"I find it hard to believe this breach of the consent is not deliberate."

Asked whether the council would be issuing a retrospective consent, Mr Power said, "No, not in this case, no."

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