‘Train wreck of ignoring reality’

Published date15 July 2021
Publication titleCentral Otago News
Alexandra farmer Gary Kelliher, whose field of expertise includes resolving catchment water issues on behalf of the Otago Regional Council (ORC), has declared a conflict of interest and is not taking part in the ORC-Manuherikia decision-making process for minimum flows.

In his opinion piece published in the Otago Daily Times newspaper on June 4, two weeks before the public consultation ended, Cr Kelliher expressed his anger, disappointment and dismay ‘‘that the council to which I am elected, the environmental groups and my community are at odds yet again and are no closer together in an understanding of each other in what is an appropriate minimum flow for our precious river’’.

In reply to questions put to him by The News on Monday about when the public could expect to have access to a summary of people’s views, he reiterated his frustration.

‘‘The whole process is incredibly delayed thanks to the ORC, and the entrenched views of all of the parties involved.

‘‘The ORC role was to facilitate science for decision-making and it’s been a total failure as the range that was consulted on is ridiculous.’’

The flow options range incrementally from 1200 litres per second (option one) up to 3000 litres per second (option five).

The upshot for farming is the higher the minimum flow, the lower the reliability for irrigation, a reduction by 73%-74%.

‘‘I suspect there is a determination among the ORC and the enviro groups that no matter what science says, they want a high flow, and irrespective of what impact that will have on financial viability.’’

He said the water users were confident that the 1100 litres per second proposed at the Alexandra Holiday Park met the requirements of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPSFM), which provides for the health of the river, and this position was defensible in the environment court and to water commissioners.

It is understood that councillors will meet on August 12 to discuss the Manuherikia.In an email discussion between Cr Kelliher and Letts Gully resident Nigel Murray shared with The News, Mr Murray said the delay in resolution ‘‘is pushing up against the ecological limits of the Manuherikia and her catchment tributaries, let alone the timeline for the unresolved 30-year transition away from over-allocated water rights’’.

He urged Cr Kelliher to press the ORC executive to release the information as soon as possible.

In a reply in a separate communication with The News, Cr Kelliher disagreed, ‘‘as...

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