Farming group walks away from Environment Canterbury water consultation – eDairyNews
New Zealand |24 abril, 2019

Canterbury | Farming group walks away from Environment Canterbury water consultation

A farming group is promising to ramp up its action against Environment Canterbury (ECan) after walking away from regional water consultation.

The Rural Advocacy Network says it has withdrawn from Hurunui Waiau water zone committee talks because it has «lost all trust in ECan».

Spokesman Jamie McFadden told Stuff there was a feeling ECan «just use these committees to achieve their own agenda».


IAIN MCGREGOR/STUFF
The Selwyn River is polluted and running dry. (Video first published December 2016)

The catalyst for the network’s disengagement was the «riverbeds issue» – specifically, ECan’s BRIDGE project to define the width of a braided river.

That project had serious issues of predetermination and seriously compromised the zone committee, to the extent the network now had no confidence in any ECan planning processes, he said.

The network had pulled out of the process, as Forest and Bird and Fish and Game had earlier.

In February, when the network accused ECan of «bogus» consultation over defining the width of the region’s braided riverbeds, the council’s chief operating officer Nadeine Dommisse​ said the BRIDGE project had been created «to identify if a clearer definition of the ‘bed of a braided river’ for regulatory purposes was possible».

Defining the width of these riverbeds is becoming a crucial issue for land use across the Canterbury Plains. Different definitions either favour those who farm alongside them, and who wish to use riverbed land for their operations, or ECan, which has led to some saying the council is engaged in a «land grab»

The council is going to the Court of Appeal over a High Court decision on the extent of the Selwyn River bed, where Dunsandel farmer Michael Dewhirst​ runs a dairying operation.

McFadden said network members would make a presentation to the Hurunui District Council meeting on May 2 «highlighting how bad things are with ECan» and requesting the council give up membership of the zone committee.

Zone committee chairman John Faulkner said the committee was «doing its best to walk the middle road» with all parties.

«I know [the network] have got a very particular view on the freshwater planning process. They don’t like how the process has been run. With the BRIDGE project, they have walked away because they are concerned about it.

«In all honesty, I’m comfortable with those tensions and it is good that they are there. People make their own decisions and that is part of the zone committee process.

«If we didn’t have those tensions, we probably wouldn’t be doing our job properly.»

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