Council hears water dispute

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THE TRUE value of water is at the centre of a dispute between two Patutahi fruit growers seeking to irrigate from the same stream.

A Gisborne District Council hearing this week heard orchardist Mark De Costa had applied to change his resource consent to take water from the Waipaoa River to one of its seven tributaries, the Whakaahu Stream.

The only other water consent on the stream was held by Roberts Farming Company, which runs a 13.6ha kiwifruit orchard downstream from Mr De Costa’s property.

Mr De Costa’s Waipaoa River consent allowed him to take up to 2160 cubic metres of water daily at 25 litres per second.

He applied for a variation to instead take water from Whakaahu Stream, which runs through his Patutahi property and where he wants to grow 13ha of apple trees.

“We are diversifying to get a better return. We are employing more people and putting money back into the district,” he said.

His water take would decrease to 650 cubic metres a day, with the maximum rate also reducing to 18 litres a second.

An annual limit meant he would only have 151 days in the year irrigating at the maximum daily allowance.

Consent conditions also included a “buffer” where he would have to stop irrigating if the stream flow dropped to 18 litres a second.

Downstream at Roberts Farming the limit was 12 litres a second.

Roberts Farming submitted the stream was not big enough to handle two irrigators, especially in the “extreme” dry summer months.

Manager Simon Roberts said in the summer months the stream level was often very low, and even ran dry at times.

During the past 20 years he had been managing the irrigation to ensure success.

“I have invested significant time and money into it, and made these decisions with the knowledge there would be water to keep the plants alive over the extreme summer months.

“We would be very upset and angry if that was all put in jeopardy.”

Mr Roberts said although Whakaahu Stream was in the Waipaoa River catchment, where allocation limits were set as a whole, it was upstream from the river.

One should not be able to simply transfer water permits to different locations, he said.

There would be pressures in the future with global warming and as horticultural operations increased.

If the consent were to be granted there needed to be daily electronic water monitoring and a review, he said.

Anne Roberts said there were already pressures on water takes in the stream.

There had been illegal water takes during past summers and they were consequently not able to irrigate for weeks.

They could get water from the Patutahi pipeline scheme but that cost them about $400 a day.

“We are not compensated for that. It has happened more than once, and leaves an ill-feeling.”

Mr De Costa’s counsel Ross Muir said a decision to grant the consent should be based on an equitable allocation of water, which was becoming increasingly valuable.

“We are really starting to recognise the true value of water. It has been taken for granted for a long time.”

Reducing the daily water take by 70 percent was consistent with the Waipaoa Catchment Plan aim to reduce the 30 million cubic metre “paper allocation” to six million cubic metres of actual water use by 2020.

Mr Muir recognised the stream was not a reliable source of water in summer but said the consent conditions adequately protected the interests of Roberts Farming while still allowing the water resource to be shared with others.

If environmental protections were implemented, it was fair and appropriate to share the water among other users, he said.

He agreed to Mr Roberts’ suggestion of daily and electronic monitoring, and said there was already a review clause in the consent.

“We want to make it a transparent process.”

The hearing was before the GDC hearings committee, which included councillors Amber Dunn and Larry Foster, and was chaired by councillor Pat Seymour.

Mrs Seymour said a decision would be made within 15 workings days.

THE TRUE value of water is at the centre of a dispute between two Patutahi fruit growers seeking to irrigate from the same stream.

A Gisborne District Council hearing this week heard orchardist Mark De Costa had applied to change his resource consent to take water from the Waipaoa River to one of its seven tributaries, the Whakaahu Stream.

The only other water consent on the stream was held by Roberts Farming Company, which runs a 13.6ha kiwifruit orchard downstream from Mr De Costa’s property.

Mr De Costa’s Waipaoa River consent allowed him to take up to 2160 cubic metres of water daily at 25 litres per second.

He applied for a variation to instead take water from Whakaahu Stream, which runs through his Patutahi property and where he wants to grow 13ha of apple trees.

“We are diversifying to get a better return. We are employing more people and putting money back into the district,” he said.

His water take would decrease to 650 cubic metres a day, with the maximum rate also reducing to 18 litres a second.

An annual limit meant he would only have 151 days in the year irrigating at the maximum daily allowance.

Consent conditions also included a “buffer” where he would have to stop irrigating if the stream flow dropped to 18 litres a second.

Downstream at Roberts Farming the limit was 12 litres a second.

Roberts Farming submitted the stream was not big enough to handle two irrigators, especially in the “extreme” dry summer months.

Manager Simon Roberts said in the summer months the stream level was often very low, and even ran dry at times.

During the past 20 years he had been managing the irrigation to ensure success.

“I have invested significant time and money into it, and made these decisions with the knowledge there would be water to keep the plants alive over the extreme summer months.

“We would be very upset and angry if that was all put in jeopardy.”

Mr Roberts said although Whakaahu Stream was in the Waipaoa River catchment, where allocation limits were set as a whole, it was upstream from the river.

One should not be able to simply transfer water permits to different locations, he said.

There would be pressures in the future with global warming and as horticultural operations increased.

If the consent were to be granted there needed to be daily electronic water monitoring and a review, he said.

Anne Roberts said there were already pressures on water takes in the stream.

There had been illegal water takes during past summers and they were consequently not able to irrigate for weeks.

They could get water from the Patutahi pipeline scheme but that cost them about $400 a day.

“We are not compensated for that. It has happened more than once, and leaves an ill-feeling.”

Mr De Costa’s counsel Ross Muir said a decision to grant the consent should be based on an equitable allocation of water, which was becoming increasingly valuable.

“We are really starting to recognise the true value of water. It has been taken for granted for a long time.”

Reducing the daily water take by 70 percent was consistent with the Waipaoa Catchment Plan aim to reduce the 30 million cubic metre “paper allocation” to six million cubic metres of actual water use by 2020.

Mr Muir recognised the stream was not a reliable source of water in summer but said the consent conditions adequately protected the interests of Roberts Farming while still allowing the water resource to be shared with others.

If environmental protections were implemented, it was fair and appropriate to share the water among other users, he said.

He agreed to Mr Roberts’ suggestion of daily and electronic monitoring, and said there was already a review clause in the consent.

“We want to make it a transparent process.”

The hearing was before the GDC hearings committee, which included councillors Amber Dunn and Larry Foster, and was chaired by councillor Pat Seymour.

Mrs Seymour said a decision would be made within 15 workings days.

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