Water bylaw under attack

Rural people have come out in fierce opposition to a Waitaki District Council draft water bylaw, one describing it as ''a summons to divorce''.

But some councillors, and assets manager Neil Jorgensen, said the criticism was a result of misinterpretation and a lack of definition in the draft bylaw, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher commenting: ''There are a whole lot of things being read in which was never intended.''

Staff and councillors are going to take another look at the bylaw, including whether rural water schemes should be separated from urban.

The draft bylaw was open for public submissions, which the council considered yesterday.

The bulk of the 11 submissions, seven of which were supported by verbal submissions yesterday, came from rural people or groups, including North Otago Federated Farmers and rural water scheme committees.

Their biggest criticism was the bylaw's lack of recognition of providing water for stock, the aim of the rural water schemes when the first in New Zealand was built at Windsor in 1956, and its listing of agriculture as an ''extraordinary use''.

The bylaw did not appropriately differentiate between urban and rural supplies.

Kauru Hill water scheme chairman Ross Ewing, who also presented North Otago Federated Farmers' submission, outlined the history of the rural schemes, emphasising they were for stock water and domestic supply was secondary.

''Today is a very sad day,'' he told the council yesterday, describing the draft bylaw ''as a summons to divorce''.

He appealed to the council to reject it and start again with ''serious consultation''.

Other submitters made the same plea.

Mr Kircher expected changes would be made based on the ''very good'' information being received from submitters.

''You have given us a lot of food for thought,'' he told submitters.

Lawyer Bill Dean, representing Corriedale Water Management Ltd (covering four rural schemes), said a one-size-fits-all bylaw (covering urban and rural) would not work because of significant differences between urban and rural schemes, including water use and quality.

The draft bylaw had completely ignored rural water schemes and their requirements.

It needed to be rethought with a significant overhaul, he said.

Tokarahi scheme representative John McCone asked whether listing agriculture as an extraordinary use meant ''stock would be extremely lucky to get a drink''.

He believed the council should sit down with the end users on the schemes and come up with a simple, practical bylaw that reflected the realities of urban and rural water use.

A Herbert-Waianakarua scheme consumer, Barrie McMillan, predicted ''an interesting conversation'' between the council, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the SPCA over the bylaw's lack of obligation to provide water for stock under the conditions of ''extraordinary use''.

After submissions, councillors discussed the issues raised.

Staff will bring back proposals to another workshop, including whether to have separate urban/rural water bylaws and how rural water committees can be more involved.

The bylaw covers 18 rural and urban schemes with a total value of $95 million and 20,044 residents. It is to replace the rural water schemes bylaw and Oamaru water bylaw, both of which have lapsed.

david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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