Water group accepts apology from ORC

Stephen Woodhead
Stephen Woodhead
The Cardrona Water Users Group has accepted an apology from the Otago Regional Council for not being notified directly about changes to the timetable for setting a minimum flow level for the Cardrona River.

Group chairman Mike Scurr learned through the media on Monday, formal notification of new minimum flow levels for the river had been put back from the end of this month to between March and May next year.

He told the Otago Daily Times on Monday the council had shown a lack of respect for groups such as his.

However, Mr Scurr said yesterday that outside of the formal part of a meeting in Cardrona on Wednesday, a council staff member offered an apology and it had been accepted.

''An endeavour to do better in the future was expressed,'' Mr Scurr said.

In most cases, he said, general press releases by the council ''were fine'' but in this case there was sensitivity around the process of setting minimum flow levels in Central Otago rivers.

The council is proposing a minimum flow rates for the Cardrona River of 700 litres per second in summer and 2000lps in winter.

Council senior policy analyst Tom De Pelsemaeker said, however, the rates were ''not set in concrete'', with more work to be done before the plan change was notified.

Several members of the public suggested the council ensure work included the social and economic impact of setting a minimum flow.

Mr Scurr said yesterday a ''large amount'' of data, research and consultation was still required.

''Putting 700 up as a figure with less than half the information available is, in my view, a little irresponsible.''

Council ecologist Jason Augspurger told the meeting about the data the council was working with, and what historical data was not available to it - particularly to do with the river's natural flow before irrigation began.

There was discussion about the 1km stretch of river between Mt Barker and Ballantyne Rd which dries up for a period each summer, after the snow melt has gone.

Mr Augspurger noted the proposed minimum flow rate would not solve that problem.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said as the river approached its minimum flow rate each summer, it would be up to water users how they managed the water take.

''The aim is they will all work together.''

mark.price@odt.co.nz

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