12 May 2009

Trust seeks hearing on scaled back irrigation project

5:43 am on 12 May 2009

The Central Plains Water Trust will ask the panel hearing its application to build Canterbury's biggest irrigation scheme to consider a reduced version of the project.

The trust is seeking consents to take water from the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers to irrigate up to 60,000 hectares of farmland between the rivers.

The scheme initially included a large reservoir in the Malvern Hills to store water to supplement extraction from the rivers.

But in a preliminary decision last month, the hearing panel indicated it would not grant approval for a scheme that included the dam and its associated water intake and tunnel.

The panel will hear further submissions on Monday on whether it should now end the hearing process and issue a final decision, or leave the hearing open to consider further evidence from Central Plains.

The trust supports the second option, which it says would still allow the panel to consider and grant consents for the rest of the scheme, so it could be built without the central storage capacity.

Central Plains Water says it is willing to compromise by reducing its proposed water take from 40 cubic metres per second to half the available flow, up to a maximum of 25 cumecs.

The other concession is that if the dam was granted consent the trust would not acquire land under the Public Works Act, instead agreeing to buy the land at the market rate when it became available.