Privatisation fears allayed

Fears the Waitaki District Council-owned Dunback or other East Otago water schemes could be privatised as part of a proposal to harvest water from the Shag River have been allayed by those directly involved.

The Otago Daily Times contacted both the council and proponents of the Shag River dam scheme, after a local resident expressed concern the council-owned Dunback water scheme would be privatised as part of the Shag River development.

All rejected any private ownership of council-owned water schemes, but on behalf of the Waihemo Water Catchment Society, which is investigating the Shag River dam, chairman Don McLenaghen could see both organisations working together.

He said the the council would continue to own the water schemes, but the society's proposal could augment the amount of water available.

In October, the council approved a $1.8 million upgrade, due to start this financial year, of the Dunback, Goodwood and Palmerston water schemes.

Necessary to meet drinking water standards, the upgrade would combine the three schemes, have one treatment plant at Palmerston and source water from the existing Palmerston bore.

That would increase the amount of water available to the schemes, including Dunback, which is accepting no new consumers.

Mr McLenaghen rejected any suggestion his society's proposal included taking over the Dunback nor any other East Otago water schemes from the council.

However, he hoped for council support to change the upgrade plan - building a water treatment plant as part of the dam and having a gravity-fed supply instead of pumping.

Mr McLenaghen also acknowledged it may be too late, with the council already committed to the upgrade, while the dam proposal was still in its very early stages.

Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton said there was "absolutely no possibility" of the council-owned Dunback water scheme being privatised.

"That has not been discussed with me, nor anybody else as far as I am aware.

"It's the first time I have ever heard it mooted," he said.

His understanding was the Shag River dam project was being proposed for farming and irrigation, an entirely different project from the council's $1.8 million plan to upgrade the Dunback, Goodwood and Palmerston water supplies.

The Shag River project was only tentative and under discussion at this stage, while upgrading the Dunback-Goodwood-Palmerston water schemes was scheduled to start this financial year.

"Both, in their own right, will be extremely valuable to East Otago," Mr Familton said, recognising that water was needed for the future development of the area.

Waihemo Community Board chairman Rod Philip, who is also involved with the Shag River dam project, rejected any suggestion the council's Dunback water scheme would pass into private hands.

There may well be, years down the track, some linkages, but that would be a long time away.

It would also require extensive public consultation.

Like Mr Familton, Mr Philip pointed to the decision by the council to spend $1.8 million upgrading the Dunback scheme by combining it with Palmerston and Goodwood, having one source of supply and treatment plant.


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