A possible conflict of interest has prompted the Gore District Council to seek a legal opinion.
The decision sprang from Monday’s Gore District Council discussion on the results of testing at several water bores as it seeks a new water source for Gore.
Cr Graham Sharp vehemently argued against the drilling of another bore at the Cooper’s Wells site, on which he farms.
This prompted Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks to call for a legal opinion on whether the councillor had a conflict of interest and therefore should have excused himself from the debate.
Cr Sharp defended his comments after the meeting, saying he had the best interests of Gore residents and Knapdale farmers at heart.
3 Waters asset manager Matt Bayliss said in a report the well drilled at Cooper’s Wells showed promise.
Cr Sharp said if the council installed another bore in the Knapdale area it risked over-pumping from a finite resource.
He feared his farming operation – on the property where Cooper’s Wells are located – could be put in jeopardy.
Cr Sharp said at the meeting the one well on his farm would dry up. He added not only would his farm dry up but other Knapdale wells would also be affected because of the lower water table.
He said there were already 13 obsolete wells on the Sharp Trust’s farm.
Cr Sharp said after the meeting councillors only believed he was in conflict of interest because they did not want to hear what he had to say.
He described the sinking of another bore at the site as being like “flogging a dead horse with a new whip”.
As wells dried up and the council sank a deeper well, there was no guarantee the existing wells would recharge.
“That was my major concern. Gore could really could be in trouble if one or both wells ran dry, which seems to be the history of the Knapdale aquifer,” Cr Sharp said after the meeting.
He was in favour of drilling a new well 15m-20m from the Mataura River near Cooper’s Wells.
“That would make a lot of sense,” he said.
The water would be filtered before being pumped to the existing infrastructure.
Mr Bayliss said the council had an Environment Southland consent to take 5000 cubic metres of water a day, but only took an average of 2335cu m per day and up to 3000cu m/day on any given peak day.
While Mr Hicks reminded Cr Sharp at the meeting he had to be aware of a conflict of interest, but he did not stop him from making his remarks.
“I think I was surprised he went down the track he did,” Mr Hicks said.
He was initially happy for Cr Sharp to express his views but became uncomfortable as the councillor made statements about his farming operation.
“The last thing I want to do is deny a councillor the opportunity to speak on behalf of the community, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of self-interest,” he said.
Mr Hicks believed any consents process would ensure that if another well was installed, it did not have adverse effects on neighbouring properties.