Water consents halted as river levels drop

Environment Southland senior environmental technical officer Dianne Elliotte checks the level of...
Environment Southland senior environmental technical officer Dianne Elliotte checks the level of the Waihopai River at the Waihopai Dam, on the northeastern edge of Invercargill. Photo by Allison Rudd.
Southland farmers and local authorities are hanging out for rain as river levels across the region continue to drop and smaller tributaries dry up.

As of Monday, 45 people with Environment Southland consents to take water for irrigation and other purposes had been told to stop, and another two told to cease discharges to water, council environmental management director Warren Tuckey said yesterday. The Invercargill City Council, which draws water from the Oreti River, banned the use of garden sprinklers and unattended hoses in Invercargill and Bluff from yesterday and urged residents to conserve water.

Northern Southland waterways were particularly low, with the upper Aparima River at levels normally seen only every 10 to 25 years, Mr Tuckey said. Levels at monitoring sites on 10 other waterways, including the Mataura River, Waikaia River, Waihopai River, Oreti River, Makarewa River, and the Otautau Stream had all reached trigger points for cut-offs on resource consents, he said.

Fish and Game Southland staff had been rescuing fish from several small streams and tributaries in Northern Southland, manager Maurice Rodway said. Southland is not officially in a drought, but things were ''very, very dry'', Federated Farmers Southland president Russell MacPherson said yesterday. Being unable to irrigate would have a ''huge impact'' on farmers.

Many dairy farmers had moved to once-a-day-milking or to milking twice every three days, while sheep farmers were quitting lower-weight lambs. Farmers are hoping rain forecast for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday eventuates.allison.rudd@alliedpress.co.nz

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