4 Feb 2014

HB council looks to learn from Canterbury

2:31 pm on 4 February 2014

Hawke's Bay local body representatives are visiting Canterbury to learn how to farmers there have managed the impacts of irrigation.

The proposed site of the $260 million Ruataniwha dam.

The proposed site of the $260 million Ruataniwha dam. Photo: RNZ

They are taking a look at the impact of irrigation there, as a board of inquiry considers its decision on the proposed Ruataniwha water storage scheme in central Hawke's Bay.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council is seeking consents to build the 83m-high dam which would supply water to irrigate farms in the Tukituki River catchment. It also wants approval to change the district plan relating to water management in the catchment.

The council is promoting the economic gains from the scheme, while opponents say the intensification of agriculture flowing from the dam would increase pollution in the Tukituki River.

Council chairman Fenton Wilson, who is leading the Hawke's Bay delegation in Canterbury, says it is visiting South Canterbury's Opuha dam and other schemes and farms where irrigation has made a difference.

One of the challenges the council faces if the dam goes ahead is understanding and manage the impacts of the scheme, Mr Wilson says.

"So we've come down to the heart of irrigation, if you like, in Canterbury, to get our head around how farmers deal with intensification, with nutrient issues, how we can as a community get the best possible outcome out of a decision around Ruataniwha water storage," he says.

"You can't beat going on to a farm and seeing someone actually delivering what we've investigated."

Meanwhile, a Board of Inquiry into the proposed Ruataniwha dam is asking the Government for an extension of the time it has to consider consent applications and submissions.

The board is due to release its draft decision in late February-early March but is seeking a month's extension to consider its decision, after a seven-week hearing of more than 70 submissions.