Voluntary approach for water issue

Resolving an over-allocation of consents to take water from the upper Mataura River could rely on users making voluntary reductions.

Environment Southland had allocated more water to be taken north of Gore than was allowed under legislation, it said in a report from last August.

However, it was ‘‘an over-allocation on paper only’’, Gore District Council Three Waters asset manager Matt Bayliss told councillors at a full council meeting on Tuesday last week.

‘‘There’s a lot of takers that aren’t using their full consented allocation and the hope is the over-allocation can be addressed through voluntary reductions in consent limits where the water is currently not being utilised anyway.’’

A water consumption analysis found the council was in a position to reduce its consent limits, he said.

‘‘The council is currently consented to take . . . 3000 cubic metres a day from the Jacobstown Wells and 5000cu m a day from Coopers Wells,’’ Mr Bayliss said in his report to councillors.

‘‘In the past 10 years there has been 16 occasions where the seven›day average has exceeded 4800cu m a day. The peak demand recorded was 4959cu m.’’

Accounting for future increases in demand, Mr Bayliss recommended the council volunteer to reduce its consent limits to a combined 7000cu m a day across both wells, based on a seven›day average.

The offer to Environment Southland would come with the condition that other water users in the catchment also volunteered reductions in their consent limits, he said.

Mayor Tracy Hicks said those conditions gave him confidence in the recommendation.

‘‘If we’re able to get a global consent to take water from both Coopers and Jacobstown fields, then that would give us a huge flexibility that we don’t have now.’’

Cr Bronwyn Reid asked if 1000cu m was too big a drop given the potential impact of climate change.

‘‘There’s lots of droughts. We don’t know in 10 years’ time how that’s going to impact on river flow.’’

Mr Bayliss said he was ‘‘reasonably comfortable’’ with the proposed reduction.

‘‘If all consent holders are too conservative in their voluntary reductions then we won’t resolve that over›allocation limit and we will have to go down that formal process and have something forced upon us [by Environment Southland].’’

Cr Stewart MacDonell asked what level of reduction Environment Southland was seeking.

Mr Bayliss referred him to his report, in which he said ‘‘the over›allocation calculations are quite complex and are broken down into various river flow categories or ‘bands’ ’’.

‘‘The greatest over-allocation sits in the 9 to 11 cumecs river flow band.

‘‘Users taking water in this flow band will need to reduce their consented water take by an average of 33% to resolve the over-allocation issue.’’

Councillors agreed to offer to reduce consent limits.

Cr Reid said she hoped other consent holders followed suit.