An application by TrustPower to vary the Rakaia River Water Conservation Order has been referred to the Environment Canterbury Commissioners by Environment Minister Nick Smith.
“I received this application on 18 July and subsequently sought views from Ngāi Tahu and the Regional and relevant Zone Committees of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. I have considered their views and decided the application should be publicly notified and considered by the Environment Canterbury Commissioners,” Dr Smith said.
The TrustPower application enables Lake Coleridge to be used for storing water for irrigation as well as its existing use for hydro-electricity generation. It does not vary the outstanding features of the Rakaia River recognised in the water conservation order, the minimum flow levels specified for each month, or the operating limits of Lake Coleridge in existing resource consents.
“The changes enable greater flexibility in how TrustPower can take and return water from the Rakaia River by introducing the concept of ‘stored water’ to the water conservation order. The changes would enable resource consent applications for the Lake Coleridge Project which would be subject to a separate process under the RMA,” Dr Smith said.
“There is now a good framework for this application to be considered within the Canterbury region with an operative Natural Resources Regional Plan, the new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the Canterbury Water Management Strategy all in place.
“I appreciate the sensitivity associated with changes to water conservation orders. The recent changes to Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere show the process can work well. I encourage parties interested in the Rakaia River to study these proposed changes and to make submissions to the Environment Canterbury Commissioners.
“A final decision on any variation will be made after the Commissioners have notified the variation, considered submissions and made recommendations to the Minister for the Environment next year.”