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Fish & Game will not be appealing a High Court decision to dismiss its appeal against an Environment Court decision on the minimum flow and primary allocation in the Lindis River, despite describing it as a "raw deal".
The Otago Daily Times approached both Fish & Game and the Otago Regional Council for responses to comments made by members of the Lindis Catchment Group (LCG), former ORC chief executive Graeme Martin and current councillor Gary Kelliher.
In his response, Otago Fish & Game chief executive Ian Hadland said the organisation had a statutory mandate to stand up for freshwater habitat and it would not resile from that.
"The High Court upheld the Environment Court’s decision which sadly leaves only 8% of the Lindis River flow at the confluence with the Clutha.
"That’s a raw deal for any river. Fish & Game will always advocate for waterways to get their fair share," Mr Hadland said.
"The Lindis legal process was "convoluted due to a shoddy regional water plan which failed all parties over many decades".
Three present or past Environment Court judges had recently found the water plan "makes barely any effort to manage water volumes, provides no direction on environmental outcomes and is not fit for purpose", he said.
The Government’s updated national policy statement on freshwater management clearly prioritised the river’s need first.
"Under a new planning framework, this level of disregard for the health of a river should never be allowed to happen again."
Mr Hadland confirmed Fish & Game would not be appealing the High Court judgement.
Otago Fish & Game chairman Colin Weatherall said Fish & Game’s direction was set democratically by anglers and game bird hunters.
"The licence holders’ overwhelmingly support our advocacy and will expect us to keep standing up for any key freshwater habitat under threat."
Otago Regional Council strategy, policy and science general manager Gwyneth Elsum said the council did not intend to relitigate decisions and processes that had "already been thoroughly debated in a legal context".
"Commentators on this plan change are entitled to their views, however given the investment of time and money that has been expended on getting to this stage, it would be inappropriate and counter-productive for staff to comment further on what is, legally, a closed matter that resulted in the maximum consent term (35 years) for Lindis irrigators," she said.
The 550l/s minimum flow that had been set through the Environment Court hearings and upheld in the High Court decision was agreed between the ORC and LCG during Environment Court mediation in 2017.
Like minimum flow proposals that were discussed with the community and stakeholders before the Environment and High Court appeals, the minimum flow set through the courts was informed by the technical information that was available at the time, she said.
The ORC presented its proposal to increase the initial proposed flow of 450l/s to 750l/s at a public community meeting in April 2015, prior to notification, in the Tarras Hall. Genuine attempts were made to arrange a meeting with the catchment group by councillors and the chief executive in May 2018, she said.