18 Apr 2013

Plan to prohibit damming of parts of Hurunui

9:38 pm on 18 April 2013

A Canterbury Regional Council plan will prohibit the damming of popular back country waterways the north and south branches of the Hurunui River.

The Hurunui-Waiau River regional plan aims to balance the need for irrigation for farmers while preserving healthy river flows and water quality.

The council has accepted recommendations of a hearings panel after months of public consultation and the plan is expected to be finalised soon.

North Canterbury Fish and Game officer Tony Hawker said on Thursday the upper reaches of the Hurunui River are pristine fishing and tramping destinations, and it has fought for their protection for years.

However, Mr Hawker said he is not as happy with other parts of the plan that allows for more water to be taken from the river for irrigation and increase the allowable levels of nitrogen.

The plan is also responsible for the land from Kaikoura, south to Waipara, and west towards the Southern Alps.

One of the regional council's commissioners, Peter Skelton, says the amount of land that can be irrigated in the area is likely to increase from 30,000 hectares to 100,000 hectares if the plan is adopted.

Mr Skelton said this means that nitrate levels in the Hurunui River would be allowed to increase by 25%.

A main contributor to nitrate levels is run-off from dairy farms. However, Mr Skelton said scientists have said that the river can cope. He said phosphorous is the main problem in the Hurunui and those levels are not being allowed to increase.

Federated Farmers' dairy chairperson Willy Leferink said he is excited by the plan and believed that farmers would stick to the regulations.

From Saturday, there will be a 15-day appeal period before the plan is finalised. However, any appeal can only address legal matters, not the content of the plan.

It is one of several local catchment plans included in the over-arching Canterbury Water Management Strategy and the first to get to this stage.