Last week, the Otago Regional Council released a submissions summary of the five flow scenarios for the Manuherikia River.
The report itself was contentious because the submissions did not contain the submitters’ names.
Otago Regional Council (ORC) deputy chairman Michael Laws, of the Dunstan constituency, was outspoken in his criticism and questioned the validity of the survey.
Otago›wide, it appeared that there was clear preference for the 3000›litres›per›second flow option or more, but it was a result that Cr Laws said could be easily manipulated by virtue of being an anonymous submission process.
Initially, Central Otago Environmental Society (COES) chairman Mike Riddell said COES was ‘‘particularly happy with majority opinion from the Manuherekia scenarios consultation that there is a clear majority for a desired flow rate of 3000 litres per second’’.
The science presented to the ORC and other groups reinforced it was at that flow level the river became healthy within all the various parameters, he said.
‘‘This sets a useful benchmark for the ORC as long›term decisions are made under the land and water plan to be presented in 2023.’’
The process had been long and divisive for the community, and there was a clear clash of values among different parties, he said.
‘‘Addressing flow issues over time will inevitably cause difficulty for those who have become dependent on using the river’s water to undergird their livelihoods.
‘‘While we, as an environmental group, are aware of the pain inherent in such transition, we also know that change has to happen.’’
In the space of a few hours, Cr Laws decried the results, but the ORC will forge ahead with the process as planned.
In a breakdown, 410 submissions supported a minimum flow of 3000 litres per second, 109 supported 2500, 76 wanted 2000, 36 supported 1500, 147 were for 1200, 172 wanted 1100 and 103 supported 900 litres per second.
A graph broke down the geographical area and flow preference, which included Manuherikia, holidayers/people with family or historic connection, Central Otago, Queenstown Lakes, Dunedin, Clutha, and Waitaki districts, wider›Otago, New Zealand, international and not specified.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said the localised results told a different story. He also disputed the validity of the survey and claimed that in the Manuherekia portion of a graph, which he understood to include Alexandra and Clyde, about 70% of people favoured a 1500 litre per second flow or less, as opposed to 2000 litres or above.
The release stated that after a public workshop on August 12, ORC councillors would consider a full report from staff on August 25, which would include a summary of the submissions, a preferred flow from iwi, a report from the Manukerekia Reference Group and a staff recommendation.
The ORC’s decision on a management scenario for the Manuherikia River would be made when it notified the land and water regional plan at the end of 2023, at which point the public would be able to have their say through submissions and hearings.