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A new way of managing water in the lower Waitaki catchment and Waimate district, giving more control to the local community, could be operating this year under a radical approach being implemented through Environment Canterbury (ECan).
The proposal is based on the Canterbury water management strategy, prepared by Canterbury's 10 mayors, including Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton, Waimate Mayor John Coles and Mackenzie Mayor John O'Neill.
The strategy is a radical new approach to management of water in New Zealand and has been approved by ECan and the 10 Canterbury district and city councils.
Under the strategy, 10 water-management allocation zones will be established throughout Canterbury, each with its own committee, to bring water management closer to local communities.
The first, the Hurunui-Waiau committee in North Canterbury, has already been formally approved for establishment, and one for the lower Waitaki-south coastal Canterbury zone, covering the Waimate district and part of the Waitaki district east of the Waitaki dam, is also a priority.
Another for the Upper Waitaki zone, which includes the Mackenzie district and part of the Waitaki district west of the Waitaki dam, is planned.
The lower Waitaki-coastal zone committee could have eight or more members, comprising representatives from ECan, the Waimate and Waitaki district councils, Ngai Tahu runanga and four to six appointed members from the community.
The community representatives should cover a range of interests, including agricultural-primary production, environmental, recreation, economic development, energy-electricity, the general community and also have a geographical mix.
However, once appointed, members are not expected to represent any particular interest or group but use the knowledge and experience they bring to the committee.
The Canterbury water management strategy represents more than six years of work to develop a comprehensive framework to provide long-term direction for integrated management of Canterbury's water resources.
Its importance has been recognised by the Government, even though it has sacked the ECan regional councillors and replaced them with up to seven commissioners.
Special legislation passed by Parliament to do that gives formal legal status to the strategy and requires the commissioners to have regard to it when making decisions on Canterbury's water, including regional plans and water conservation orders.
The aim of the strategy is to give present and future generations the greatest social, economic, recreational and cultural benefits from Canterbury's water within an environmentally sustainable framework.
It is a new way forward for water management, an alternative to present plan-and-consent processes that can be costly for all parties.
Quantified targets are specified for water quality, irrigated land area, river ecosystems, energy security and efficiency, biodiversity, cultural values, recreational and amenity values and opportunities.
The strategy proposes a regional water-management committee responsible for regional issues, with zone water-management committees implementing programmes in their areas.
The zone committees will have to have comprehensive and integrated action plans, measured against the overall strategy, covering. -
• Environmental restoration and development.
• Land-use intensification or reduction.
• Land-use practice and efficiencies.
• Infrastructure and its effect.
• Water brokerage and efficiency of use.
• Water quality and efficiency at community and river-system levels.
• Customary use.
• Recreational and amenity provisions.
• Other issues relevant to the zone.
Committee members would be given a full induction to get them up to speed with all the issues and have access to technical advisers for assistance.
It is envisaged community representatives on the committee would be nominated and then selected.