The Otago Regional Council has extended the deadline for public submissions on the minimum flow rate for the Clutha River by another month.
The deadline for public submissions in the first phase of the process was January 19, but ORC planning director Tanya Winter said there had been requests from people keen to submit but who needed a little more time.
“An extension isn’t going to impact our project timeframes or delay any deliverables around the plan change, so it made sense to leave that window of opportunity open a little bit longer for people to provide their feedback,” she said.
But many people feel the February 19 extension is insufficient.
Springvale Downs farmer and former Otago Regional Councillor Gary Kelliher first raised concerns about the process at the end of last year, saying that minimum flows for the Clutha River should be delayed until other catchments had been set.
This would allow the Clutha to be used as a fall-back option if people were left short of water, he said.
The Central Otago Environmental Society is yet to make a submission on the Clutha, but member Graye Shattky attended the ORC information sessions on the process in November and said he agreed that the process should be delayed.
“I attended the Clutha conversation they held and frankly, I couldn’t see why there was any urgency to worry about it at this stage.
“I thought we had enough on our plates trying to deal with firstly the Lindis then the Manuherikia.
“I’d agree with Gary – there’s so much water going down that thing.
“Unless there’s something they have to protect – and I asked these sorts of questions and they couldn’t tell me – there’s nothing at this stage that is urgent.”
Fish & Game chief executive Niall Watson said there was a big demand on the community to make numerous submissions on different catchments, but he thought the Clutha process still needed to start.
“There’s also an increasing demand of water from the Clutha, so while it has got a very significant flow, I don’t think delaying it or trying to sequence one minimum flow after another is a good idea.
“I think the regional council has to get on quickly with setting minimum flows on all rivers that require them.
“Obviously, this season really does bring home setting environmental flows on rivers.
“I think most people can see that rivers deserve better than what they’re getting at the moment.”