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Water Allocation appeal closer to day in court

April 15th, 2010

The Motueka Community Board has a short deadline to prepare material for Judge B P Dwyer, who is set down to hear the Board's appeal to the Environment Court against the District Council's Water Allocation Review, Variation 66, which will increase the water take from Motueka's aquifer.

The board decided seven weeks ago that its concerns about the water decision were serious enough to appeal the council's decision, even if it could prove expensive at up to about $20,000. The board's concerns included the possibility of less water pressure within the Central Plains Subzone as a result of extra drawdown, the apparent lack of consideration by the council of climate change predictions, and the likelihood of increased droughts and therefore lower river flows.

"There seems to be a single-minded determination by the council to transport considerable quantities of water from the Motueka aquifer to the coastal Tasman areas," Board chairman David Ogilvie said at the time. For more background information, read our earlier report here.

Judge Dwyer has requested information from both the Board and Council about attempts at negotiation to date, a list of issues unresolved, names of all witnesses, expected hearing time, and a timetable for filing and exchanging evidence. The board has until April 20th to respond, and given that it is also heavily involved in submissions regarding the Annual Plan by April 26th, board members are in for a busy couple of weeks.

These submissions to the court may lead the way to further negotiations and the possibility of a settlement out of court.

The Board discussed a letter received from TDC chief executive Paul Wylie, in which he agreed that the Board certainly had the right to pursue the appeal, but that costs of the process would have to come from a $1500 contingency fund in the Board's budget. (The Board is asking for public donations to help fund its appeal.)

Mr Wylie's letter was unclear on whether or not the Council's costs in the appeal process would be charged as a targeted bill to Motueka, but the Board understood that those costs would come from general rates. The Board will ask Mr Wylie to confirm this.

Discretionary grants

The Board heard two requests for discretionary funding by community groups. Motueka Mental Health Network was approved $500 towards the erection outside the Community House in Deck's Reserve of a metal lockable poster frame to be used as a community noticeboard. And the local branch of the SPCA was granted $500 to help pay for five screens to be used at the cattery to help provide better protection and shelter for cats and kittens which are being prepared for releasing to new owners.

The Board discussed a review of the discretionary funding process, saying it did not want to appear to be a rubber stamp for all requests. Tara Forde said she personally was vetting each application and talking with applicants to ensure they presented the right documentation and were clear in their proposals and plans. The Board's budget for these grants is expected to rise form $5000 per year to $7500 from July 1st.

Footpaths and other engineering projects

The board also considered a letter from council transportation manager Gary Clark, responding to concerns by the board that not enough work was being done by council to address the roading and footpath needs of Motueka. Gary said that most of council funding goes to maintaining roads, while also significant funds are spent on waste water and stormwater management.

"The funding available for new works such as footpaths and pedestrian ramps is very limited and not subsidised by central government," he said. "The footpath budget is $100,000 across the whole district, and much of that is going to new footpaths in Murchison and Pohara, both of which locations had no footpaths and therefore some safety issues.

"While you find the level of expenditure disturbing, the amount of cycle paths built in Motueka are a significant compared with the rest of the district. This is more significant when the funding streams for cycle and walkway projects has changed and in reality does not exist for Tasman District. The New Zealand Transport Agency has moved this funding to urban areas such as Auckland and other major cities."

Gary outlined the council's ranking matrix, used to determine which projects should be tackled in which order. The board moved to invite him to attend one of its forthcoming monthly meetings to explain how the matrix works.

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