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Community Board drops water allocation appeal

November 10th
[by David Armstrong]

The Motueka Community Board has dropped its appeal against water taken from the Motueka River aquifer being partially allocated to the Tasman coastal area, ending a process that was at times bitter and headed for an expensive court hearing.

The Board decided unanimously at its monthly public meeting yesterday that the appeal, which had some public financial backing through an appeal bank account set up by Tara Forde, was going to cost too much to keep pursuing it. Members felt that its concerns had at least been noted by the Tasman District Council, which had given assurances of water security for Motueka at mediation meetings.

TDC Mayor Richard Kempthorne, who attended yesterday's meeting, expressed profound relief that the Board had voted this way.

Late in May a panel of Independent Commissioners has granted resource consent to TDC's Engineering Department to take up to 16,000 cubic metres of water per day from the aquifer for the proposed Motueka Coastal Community Water supply. (Read that report - and subsequent arguments - here). This followed the decision by the Community Board to appeal TDC's decision to request this resource consent. (Read these news items here: February 27th and April 15th)

The Board has been in talks with Council officers over the issues the previous Board was concerned about, with the aim of reaching a consensus on how to resolve the matter outside of court. The Environment Court had given the Board until December 3rd to decide its next course of action. The meetings led to a consensus recommendation that the appeal be withdrawn and the matter settled with the District Council.

The meeting notes reported that Council had "instituted some policy amendments and provided assurances and safeguards for the Motueka community supply and for full irrigation of the areas in Motueka served from the Central Plains Zone".

The notes also reported that "the Board's anxiety regarding 'out of zone' transfers remains, particularly for the rural and rural residential areas, whose residents currently are required to provide for their own domestic water and fire fighting needs".

Board member Paul Hawkes said the appeal process was getting too expensive and it was getting too hard and potentially expensive to obtain expert opinions. (The court had requested that the Board provide expert legal and hydrology opinions.) Paul said he was happy that Council had agreed to note the Board's concerns.

The Board voted unanimously to settle its appeal with TDC and notify the Environment Court accordingly. The two Councillors sitting on the Board who were present at the meeting, Eileen Wilkins and Barry Dowler, chose not to vote as their positions were already known through earlier Council votes.

Board chairman David Ogilvie said after the meeting that, although there was a degree of nervousness among Board members about withdrawing to a position of trust in the Council, they were prepared to accept the Council's expert opinions and assurances that Motueka's water supply well into the future will be protected.

David also said that the appeal bank account stood at around $530 and the Board would have to decide quite quickly what to do with it. Donations to it which could be tracked could lead to some repayments, but many donations were small and anonymous.

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