A moratorium on new water takes from a river is unusual, but it’s the right decision for the Hurunui River.
Environment Minister Nick Smith says:
“The Hurunui moratorium proposal makes good sense when there is no proper plan for the river and catchment,” Dr Smith said. “It will provide much needed breathing space in which stakeholders can develop a balanced and comprehensive plan for the Hurunui River ahead of major decisions on proposals for irrigation development and water conservation orders that will impact upon the future of the river for generations to come.” . . .
. . . “This moratorium will breathe life into the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and the recently announced Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee. It provides a window of opportunity for a collaborative local approach in which provision is made for both the economic development and environmental sustainability of the Hurunui River.
“That the first use of the special powers under the Environment Canterbury Act (2010) is a moratorium reinforces the Government’s intent that irrigation development in Canterbury needs to occur in a planned and sustainable way.”
Both irrigators and those who want to leave the river untouched are happy with the decision.
Irrigation NZ says it makes sense when there is no water plan.
Irrigators are often accused of not being mindful of environmental issues but most understand how important it is not to degrade waterways by taking too much water from them. Existing irrigators are also mindful that without a plan their water rights may be compromised.
Conservation groups are also supportive though Nick Smith points out the irony in that. This move is only possible because of the Environment Canterbury legislation which at least some of those on the green end of the political spectrum opposed.
“Nick Smith is portraying this as an environmental victory. It is certainly bettter than simply giving the tick to the Hurunui irrigation scheme and dam, and it does give us breathing space to campaign against the attempts to dam the Hurunui. But, if National get their way, I believe the outcome will actually be worse for the Hurunui than if National had never introduced its ECan Bill.
And this is why.”
The moratorium on water take is absolutely the right decision. But, who puts together the ‘Plan’ for the Hurunui? Policy people? Engineers? Mathematicians using game-theory to choose the ‘preferred’ option? Perhaps we will see all heads put together? first and foremost – think through the assumptions – and check them off as valid or invalid. It’s an assumption that a dam will deliver more profit to the region than no dam – valid or not? It’s an assumption that there are benefits from higher flows in summer – valid? It’s an assumption that fish ladders will be effective and that the brown trout will maintain their size – valid? that salmon will survive in a largely changed environment? that the risk of dam failure is low (and that we’ll improve the unregulated environment around dam maintenance)? Making the best plan means getting the science and experience in front of the ‘plan makers,’and for them to carefully check every critical assumption for truth. We need thinking people involved. We need to hear from those affected by the plan – and those that can bring their experience to it – like the experiences of dryland farmers – the Starborough Flaxbourne Soil Conservation Group.