Environment Canterbury has today released the decision granting the water take resource consent required for South Canterbury’s Hunter Downs Irrigation Scheme. The scheme is a joint venture between the South Canterbury Irrigation Trust and Meridian Energy Ltd.
It will use 20.5 cubic metres of water per second (cumecs) from the Lower Waitaki River to irrigate up to 40,000 hectares east of the Hunter Hills between the Waitaki River and Timaru. The consent is granted for 35 years.
The irrigation scheme is likely to be the second or third largest in New Zealand. The other large scheme in Canterbury is the Rangitata Diversion Race which irrigates more than 64,000 hectares.
The Hunter Downs application was heard by a panel of three commissioners, chaired by former Environment Court Judge Peter Skelton with Mike Bowden, environmental consultant, and Dr Greg Ryder, freshwater scientist. The hearings were originally heard in 2007 with the same commissioners also hearing Meridian Energy’s North Bank Tunnel Hydro proposal, released at the end of 2008. The Hunter Downs hearing adjourned in 2007 and resumed in April 2009. It was formally closed earlier this month.
Both proposals were heard as “water only” applications in the first instance. Infrastructure consent applications are likely to be lodged in coming years or months. (See consent conditions end of the web decision, Appendix 6 “Giving Effect to this Consent”, point 38, second last page).
More than 400 submissions were received for Hunter Downs, most in opposition. Around 42 submitters supported the scheme.
The decision is available on the Environment Canterbury website http://ecan.govt.nz/news-and-notices/notices/pages/hearing-decisions.aspx