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Consent granted for water take from Motueka Plains aquifer

June 1st
[Press release from Tasman District Council]

A Panel of Independent Commissioners has granted resource consent to the Tasman District Council's Engineering Department to take up to 16,000 cubic metres of water per day for the proposed Motueka Coastal Community Water supply.
The consent granted is for 4,000 cubic metres less than what was sought as the Commissioners did not think that the Council would reasonably need 20,000 cubic metres within the timeframe proposed.

The decision was based on extensive modelling undertaken by the Council which showed that there are large volumes of water (24,500 cubic metres per day) that could be taken from the Motueka Plains aquifer without having adverse effects on the environment or irrigators. This volume is on top of that water that the Tasman Resource Management Plan reserves for all irrigable land around Motueka and also for Maori Perpetual Lease Land.

The water will be used to develop a community water supply scheme in Motueka, Riwaka, Mapua, the Coastal Tasman Area and as far afield as Dovedale. In their decision the Commissioners said that they are "satisfied that the effects on the environment as a result of the water take will be minor or less than minor" and that the water take is not inconsistent with the objectives and policies of the Tasman Resource Management Plan. The Commissioners found that the proposal will have an "unnoticeable and probably un-measurable" effect on the Motueka River.

A hearing was held in March 2010 where local Tangata Whenua groups and local residents spoke to their submissions. Local residents of Motueka were concerned that their access to water via private bores would be affected. To address this, the Engineering Department offered a free reticulated water connection to all residents within an identified zone of effect. The Commissioners accepted this offer.

Tangata Whenua groups (including Wakatu Incorporation, Te Atiawa, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama, Ngati Koata and Rore Lands Ltd) said that the take would diminish the mauri of the Motueka River and that transferring water between catchments is spiritually offensive. The Commissioners found that the Motueka River would not be physically affected and there is no resource management reason why water cannot be taken from water rich areas and used for potable water on dryer areas.

The Council and any submitters dissatisfied with the decision will have 15 working days in which to lodge an appeal to the Environment Court.

Comment by David Ogilvie:
[Added 2 June 2010]
Community Board chairman David Ogilvie told Motueka Online he was disappointed that the council's application was approved, but accepts that the three independent commissioners were well experienced and had done a fair and thorough job in researching and hearing submissions.

David had made personal submission and sat through all sessions of the hearing back in March. The board did not make a submission as the council's application was made in 2007, before the time of the current board.

"I'm pleased to see the reduction of water take from 20,000 to 16,000, but it's still a huge quantity of water that will be removed and I still believe it will have an effect on the river," she said. "I still don't believe it can be shown that the effects will be only minor."

He said the sweetener of offering free connections to reticulated water was great for the 200 or so houses that will qualify, but that cost will surely be added to the overall project cost so will be shared by all ratepayers.

The community board was set to meet tomorrow evening (Thursday) to discuss its approach to the appeal it has lodged to the Environment Court against TDC's change of Plan to make the water take a compliant activity, and David said that this latest decicion will potentially change the whole framework within which that appeal was aimed to work, so the meeting may introduce a whole new set of challenges. As yet he didn't have a clear steer on how it was panning out. However, he acknowledged that the board cannot appeal the resource consent itself as it was not a submitter to the hearings.

Added press release from TDC:
[Added 9 June 2010]
Motueka Ward Councillors Eileen Wilkins, Barry Dowler and Jack Inglis are happy with the independent commissioners' decision regarding water allocation to the Tasman District Council for community supply purposes.

The independent commissioners have acknowledged that the effects of the water take from Motueka aquifers would be "minor or less than minor".

"We are pleased to see that the commissioners have looked at the hard evidence and ignored uninformed speculation and hearsay," say the Councillors. "The town of Motueka and the surrounding districts will benefit immeasurably from this decision, which will now provide a sound basis for much needed growth. Kaiteriteri boomed when it was connected to the large Motueka aquifer 15 years ago. The Commissioner's finding is a big step forward for the whole area".

"We are also particularly pleased that the Council has volunteered to a condition which will specify a zone of effect around the well field to protect the supply of people in that area who might have shallow wells," say the Councillors.

"This condition will allow properties within the specified zone to connect to a reticulated water supply without payment of a connection charge, if it can be shown that any problems with their wells can be directly linked to any change in aquifer levels."

Update from David Ogilvie:
[Added 11 June 2010]
Community Board chairman David Ogilvie was reported in The Motueka Golden Bay News saying that although he was disappointed the council had been given the green light, the fact that the council was allowed to take this water for a shorter length of time was a good thing.

However he said he was not quite sure whether the decision properly considered Motueka's growing population and its population spikes in summer. He said he was dubious and wanted the figures clarified, but it was difficult to argue with experts without providing scientific and technical evidence.

He also said he was concerned about the use of the word "parochial" by the Commissioners, because it displayed a patronising and disrespectful attitude to local Motueka submitters. "Their interest is intelligent and serious and mindful of the problematic over-allocation issues in other parts of the Tasman district. To be put down as parochial is just unnecessary." He repeated this comment to Motueka Online.

Meanwhile the Appeal being coordinated by the Community Board against Variation 66, which allowed for the water take to comply with the council's Ten Year Plan, is still going ahead. David told Motueka Online that the Environment Court want to see mediation around the middle of July, and the Community Board will meet with the Council on June 16th to try again to find some compromises.

Tara Forde, who is coordinating the Appeal funding, says public donations to the appeal costs has been encouraging, with many people donating small amounts to help. For information on donating, click here »

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