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Amending the Rakaia Water Conservation Order (WCO) to facilitate irrigation is a tragedy on par with allowing an open cast mine in a National Park, Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage said today.
The Rakaia is a majestic braided river with outstanding wildlife habitat, fisheries and recreational opportunities. Since 1988 this precious river has been protected by a WCO. WCOs are the river equivalent of national park status.
"The Hearing Commissioners' decision to agree to TrustPower's application to amend the Rakaia WCO and reduce its protection of the Rakaia River is the inevitable outcome of National's Environment Canterbury (ECan) Act 2010. The Act weakened the RMA in relation to Canterbury WCOs and energy company TrustPower took advantage of this.
"The ECan Act 2010 and the Government's replacement of elected regional councillors with its appointed commissioners were designed to accelerate TrustPower's Coleridge storage proposal and promote irrigation in Canterbury. That's exactly what's happened here," said Ms Sage.
"As the decision notes, the evidence and submissions from ECan supported those of the applicant (TrustPower). With ECan commissioners batting for TrustPower's scheme the decision is unfortunately no surprise.
"Our natural environment is the foundation of our economy. We need to safeguard our rivers, lakes and aquifers; not allow development that will accelerate water pollution.
"The commissioners agreed that there is 'no doubt the Rakaia is an outstanding braided river in New Zealand.' Yet this National Government is intent on trading it for more dairy cows.
"TrustPower's scheme will promote dairying expansion, which is already causing considerable water quality issues in Canterbury.
"Nearly every report on water quality in New Zealand has pointed to the role of land use intensification, particularly pastoral farming, in driving water quality decline."