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$40m down the river

PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Region’s leaders predicting economic, social disaster

BECKIE WILSON
[email protected]

Farmers will be driven out of business, and Wairarapa’s economy stripped of $40 million every year, if proposed water allocation restrictions go ahead, Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson says.

The Ruamahanga Whaitua Committee released its draft Whaitua Implementation Plan on Wednesday and it has left a bad taste in the mouths of the region’s leaders.

Among the about 100 recommendations, from discharges to land management, and river and lake management, water allocation is the major concern for local authorities, farmers and business owners.

Mrs Patterson was “disappointed” in the recommendations despite the “strong support for changes” from the community at public meetings.

“Should the current proposal be adopted, it will have significant detrimental impacts on our lakes and our community’s well-being,” she said.

“The current proposal means Category A users – those relying on irrigation – can’t take water below a certain level.

“That will drive many farmers out of business and strip $40 million from our local economy every year in the future. That’s $40 million less being spent in our local shops. This is, of course, incredibly worrying.”

Committee chairman Peter Gawith told the Times-Age on Wednesday the water allocation section remained unchanged in the draft as the committee was restricted due to legislation.

Lyn Patterson. PHOTO/FILE

Mrs Patterson was also concerned about the likelihood that the town’s two lakes, Henley Lake and the Lake of Remembrance in Queen Elizabeth Park, would run dry in the summer months.

“I appreciate the Whaitua members are community representatives and have dedicated time to this, but they have failed to take on board the concerns of the communities they are supposed to represent.”

Carterton Mayor John Booth shared similar feelings.

As a Category A consent holder, Mr Booth questions whether the committee fully understood the impact of cutting water off at the time of year when it was needed the most.

“It’s going to have a terrible, terrible effect on all sorts of businesses, not just farmers,” he said.

“Those of us in the rural sector who have been here a while and have lived on a farm previous to any form of irrigation, saw how detrimental that was to productivity on the farm.”

He appreciated the attempt to improve water quality and ecosystems, but it was “not economically viable” for many people.

Bideford farmer, and former Federated Farmers president, Jamie Falloon questioned the modelling and data used by the committee.

“There is a huge degree of uncertainty, yet they are making big decisions and recommendations that could have massive impacts without having good data to back it up.”

In the beginning, the Greater Wellington Regional Council should have undertaken monitoring of the rivers to give the committee real data to
work on.

Mr Falloon said it was very hard to know what the draft meant for each catchment and each farm.

“Things have to change, and sheep and beef farmers are going to get the brunt of the cost of change – that’s said in the WIP along those words.”

Gladstone Sports and Social Committee president Gary Riddell was disappointed with Mr Gawith’s comments on legislation restricting water allocation.

The complex is another Category A consent holder which will be impacted by the water allocations.

“Why did we go to the trouble of attending whaitua ‘consultation meetings’ and put in a submission to be totally ignored?” he said.

“This will become an economic and social disaster for Wairarapa if allowed to happen.”

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