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At a council meeting in Dunedin on Thursday, Cr Michael Laws succeeded with a motion making a substantial change to the process of setting minimum flow rates in Central Otago rivers.
As a result, the process must now include the allocation of water from the rivers — a matter vitally important to water users.
Cr Laws followed up yesterday with a press release saying the council was "a long way behind the eight ball" because it had "lost critical science and planning staff over the past five years".
"The most experienced scientists and planners now work for the irrigation companies and farmers.
"Very simply, they know more and are closer to the issues."
Cr Laws said the council had "botched" its minimum flow process.
"Faced with time and staffing problems of its own creation, it decided to impose an expedient minimum flow regime upon the Central Otago catchments with next to no science to support [it]."
Cardrona Water Users Group spokesman Mike Scurr also thought the council lacked experience.
"Possibly the work pressure or the leadership or direction of councils tends to create a very high attrition rate in good, young technicians, scientists and policy guys," he said.
Adding to the problem, he believed, were management policy changes causing "a lot of confusion and doubling up of work".
Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said the council had "a very experienced staff group in both science and policy supported by a nationally recognised fresh water ecologist and a policy and planning expert".