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Community Board lodges water appeal to Environment Court

February 27th, 2010
By David Armstrong

The Motueka Community Board has decided to appeal the Tasman District Council decision to increase the water take from Motueka's aquifer at the Environment Court.

The board unanimously decided last week that its concerns about the water decision were "real and serious" because it would have" implication for many years to come", said board chairman, David Ogilvie.

But the appeal may not go to an actual hearing, because the Mayor Richard Kempthorne said he will meet the board later in March to see if mediation could not resolve the dispute before an expensive hearing began.

In any case, it is within the Court's power to request mediation first. An initial payment of $500 has already been made, however, to lodge the appeal.

"We don't want this to be seen as a scrap between the board and the council," said David Ogilvie. "We simply have very real and serious concerns about the decision, and we have a duty to represent Motueka residents and ratepayers in that regard."

As reported in an earlier article, the board expressed its unhappiness that there had been only very minor changes to the council's proposals arising from the board's submission last year to the Water Allocation Review for Motueka area.

The board's stated 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. David said in his report to the board that the council's own reports demonstrated that the riverbed has degraded by at least 0.6 metres over a 50 year period. He said that the change in river flows would significantly affect Motueka's water supply.

"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," he reported.

Council responded one week later that "the whole question of water resources and future uses was carefully considered by an independent Commissioner who took into account all relevant factors".

Councillor Trevor Norriss said that all concerns raised by the Community Board were addressed during the hearing and rejected by the expert independent Commissioner. "There has been significant research undertaken to establish the amount of water available, as it is quite clear that the volume of water that could go into that 'rural three' zones is very minor and well within the capacity of the aquifer."

This response was based on advice provided to the council by an advisor, and community board members were angered by an email it received from council at the time that the board has been billed more than $150 for the cost of obtaining that advice. In a letter to Motueka Online, community board member Tara Forde accused the board of "bully boy tactics of intimidation".

Last week Tara wrote an opinion piece for the Motueka and Golden Bay News, explaining that the board's decision to appeal TDC's decision was taken because "representing Motueka's interest is our statutory role".

"There are some concerns about council's decision-making processes in the matter," she wrote. "This water allocation review variation is about looking at how much water can actually be sustainably taken from the aquifer. This is an Environmental and Planning Department matter. The next step is all about the proposed coastal water pipeline and water reticulation in Motueka. This is an Engineering Committee application.

"The Community Board is concerned that in the council's haste to build the water pipeline, valid criticisms about the water allocation had been pushed aside. These concerns were further confirmed last week by some inappropriate comments by Trevor Norris, chairman of the Engineering Committee."

She said that with predictions of increased drought as a result of climate change, and the ongoing lowering of the Motueka River bed, the council should be applying precautionary measures.

"Motueka's future depends on a ready supply of water. Before piping it away to supply rural subdivisions, the council needs to ensure the people of Motueka is bought supply is protected."

TDC staff were asked by Motueka Online to comment on the board's decision to appeal but so far have not responded.

Comment by Tara Forde, Motueka Community Board member:
[Posted 10 March 2010]
A group of citizens are seeking donations for the community board's Environment Court appeal against TDC's decision to increase the water take from Motueka's aquifer. The appeal will be expensive, so any financial assistance will be gratefully accepted. Donations can be made to the Motueka Water Appeal Account, 03-1354-0248403-30

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