The Waitaki Catchment Allocation Board has completed the water allocation plan (WAP) for the Waitaki river, in New Zealand’s South Island.
The plan was approved by the board last week and was released on 3 October. The board considered the 1197 submissions it recieved on the draft plan following hearings in Oamaru and Omarama over a six week period in June and July.
The board has lifted proposed water use restrictions, allowing more water to be available for electricity generation and irrigation.
The WAP provides for:
• Priority uses of water for stock.
• Domestic use and firefighting.
• Sustaining the environmental values for Waitaki catchment water.
• Allocation of water for various activities including irrigation and electricity generation.
• Management of water allocation, including when the water level is low.
The plan comes into operation in three weeks, providing there is no appeal from the High Court.
State-owned Meridian Energy, New Zealand’s largest electricity generating company, has welcomed the revised plan, although the company’s chief executive Keith Turner still has some concerns about the provision for a 150m3 minimum flow on the lower Waitaki river. Meridian sometimes discharges enough water for a flow of only 80m3/sec.
Turner believes the new flow regime could have a negative impact on power generation from Meridian’s eight power plants on the Waitaki system, and would prevent major hydro development on the lower Waitaki and affect irrigation in South Canterbury and North Otago.
The board’s draft plan recommended minimum environmental flows of 200m3/sec in winter and 230m3/sec in summer in the lower river, but this was opposed by the Electricity commission, who said that any minimum flow greater than 150m3/sec all year round would mean storage in Lake Pukaki would have to be reserved to maintain flows, and would not be available when needed to generate electricity.
Meridian will now study the plan in detail to fully understand the WAP’s implications for its hydro plants on the river.
Farmers, including the Federated Farmers, have also given their cautious approval, as has Central South Fish and Game.
The WAP is available on the Waitaki Catchment Allocation Board website, along with three supporting documents including a document giving the board’s decisions and reasons for adopting the plan’s provisions, a document evaluating the plan’s provisions and a document containing material referred to in the plan.
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