Selwyn residents back councillor over dirty water criticism

2:13 pm on 3 May 2017

A fiery meeting has seen Selwyn locals throw their support behind a regional councillor who criticised the organisation's record on water protection.

Almost still water with  floating weed and  green algae suspended throughout the water

Algal bloom in the slow moving Selwyn River. Photo: RNZ / Philippa Tolley

The chairperson of a Canterbury Regional Council water committee last month complained about a newly elected councillor - after she criticised the organisation's record on polluted waterways - asking for councillors to instead show a united front.

Yesterday, a small but vocal group of residents crowded into the meeting of the Selwyn Waihora Water Zone committee.

On the agenda was a letter penned by its chairperson, Allen Lim, complaining about councillor Lan Pham.

Selwyn resident Mike Glover told Mr Lim that Ms Pham's criticisms were more than justified.

"Our lake is highly polluted, our river is really polluted ... nitrates are getting in to our drinking water."

Selwyn resident Mike Glover

Selwyn resident Mike Glover at the meeting on Tuesday. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Mr Lim assured him he understood his concerns but in a heated exchange, Mr Glover questioned whether he really did understand them.

"I think you're out of line and I actually think that the water zone committee, if that's you opinion of the democratic process, where people can't get up and say what they think, then I think you're sadly misled."

Helen Duckworth. Selwyn Waihora Water Zone committee.

Helen Duckworth Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Mr Glover reminded him that Ms Pham received more votes than any other councillor and spoke for a lot of people unhappy about the state of the region's waterways.

"We need to celebrate the fact that somebody elected is putting her hand up and saying 'hey, all is not well here'."

Another resident, Helen Duckworth, told the meeting the planning rules that were criticised by Ms Pham were rushed through without proper consultation.

Mr Lim said a lot of work went into deciding on the pollution limits that would be imposed on dairy farmers.

"That target took a long long time to come to and it's about keeping people in business as well. It [the target] is not a particularly good one for you, but the thing is there was a lot of debate and we've gone through the process with the hearing commissioners, with submissions and stuff like that and that's where we've arrived at."

Council head scientist Stefanie Rixecker said there were further planning changes in the pipeline that would impose new limits on dairy farmers.

"Councillor Pham has raised questions at the table about should we re-visit those end limits. It is for the community to be able to work together and to debate and to argue those end limits. You certainly have every need to hold us to account."

Councillor Pham declined to comment on Mr Lim's complaint.

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