An Ophir archaeologist has spoken out against Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan’s letter to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern in response to the party’s proposed water royalty, saying it failed to properly represent the community.
Mr Cadogan responded to Labour’s proposal, which would introduce a royalty for farmers using water for irrigation, in a strongly worded letter labelling the proposal a “tax on rainfall” that would cost producers in the district $6million a year.
Revenue from the proposed tax would go to regional councils and be used to clean up waterways.
Archaeologist Matthew Sole said Mr Cadogan’s letter was unbalanced and failed to acknowledge human impacts on water in the Central Otago region.
“Tim was elected to represent the community .. I feel that letter wasn’t representative of the wider community.
“I can understand him going into bat for them [irrigators] but we have to be mindful of the wishes of the community.”
Mr Sole said water was a community resource.
“If you borrow something, you should return it in the same or better condition.
“We don’t account for our effects on the environment.
“Current ORC river quality reporting has poor reports across a range of indicators for the midsection of the catchment along with significant E. coli spikes after rain events.”
He said a penalty for damaging water quality was necessary to ensure water quality was maintained.
“I understand the need for good water irrigation, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the wider community.”
He pointed to the discovery of 30 to 60-year-old nitrate in Canterbury groundwater, which suggested some pollution might not reach groundwater level for decades.
Mr Cadogan said he was “all for” holding people to account for damaging the environment, but “not all water users are abusers”.
“Throughout my letter to Jacinda Ardern, I emphasised my concerns for the environment .. The main thrust of the letter, however, was that the irrigation tax as proposed by the Labour Party would unfairly and disproportionately place that burden on irrigators in this district.”
Water has been a hot topic around Central Otago recently. Last week, a public event entitled “A Civil Conversation” focused on the long-term management of the Manuherikia River.