Central Otago farmers are concerned that unsuccessful mediation talks about minimum flows in the Lindis River will set a precedent, after it was revealed last week the dispute will be taken to an Environment Court hearing.
Initially, the Otago Regional Council proposed a minimum flow rate of 450 litres per second for the Lindis River, but this was later doubled to 900 litres/sec, which was opposed by irrigators using the catchment.
A group of Tarras farmers had been in mediation talks with the ORC since the beginning of the year but were unable to come to a resolution.
An Environmental Court spokeswoman told the Otago Daily Times a date for the hearing would be set before the end of the year.
Matakanui farmer and Federated Farmers executive member Andrew Paterson said the outcome was concerning for Central Otago farmers, who were in consultations with the ORC over setting a minimum flow for the Manuherikia.
“It is an issue – we are worried about it.”
Manuherikia Catchment Water Strategy Group member and Springvale Downs farmer Gary Kelliher described the process as a “real shame”.
Irrigators from other catchments, including the Manuherikia, had watched the process carefully, he said.
Given the ORC was in the process of developing minimum flows for the Manuherikia and Cardrona rivers, a resolution to the Lindis dispute would have been ideal for everyone involved, he said.
“You’d like to think it doesn’t set a precedent.
“You’d like to think it was a separate problem and concerning separate information.
“It’s just super-disappointing that the Lindis process is ending up in the Environment Court .. it didn’t have to.”
He hoped future consultations for the Manuherikia and Cardrona rivers would include more input from all members of the community.
“I hope they will listen to the community more – all factions of the community.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Otago Regional Council director policy planning and resource management Tanya Winter said it was “not appropriate to speculate on the outcome or its effect on other catchments” as the Lindis plan change was before the Environment Court.
“At present work is progressing around the preparation of economic and social assessment reports for the Manuherikia catchment.
“Once these are complete we will be coming back to consult with the community with preferred options for management of the amount of water in the catchment.”