14 January 2010

Environment Commissioner urges Minister to call in Mackenzie Basin dairying consents

"The risk to the water quality of the area is of such significance, that the Minister for the Environment should call in these large-scale, dairy operations for consideration," said Dr Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment today.

The Commissioner sent a letter to the Minister for the Environment yesterday asking him to call in the resource consent applications for effluent and air discharges, as requested recently by Environment Canterbury.

"I am particularly concerned about the effect of these dairying operations on the water quality of the Ohau and Ahuriri catchments," she said. "The combined effluent of these operations would be similar in quantity to a city the size of Christchurch being located in the Mackenzie Basin."

A recent report from NIWA suggests that if the amount of nutrients entering Lake Benmore was to substantially increase, then the water quality of the lake and lower Waitaki River would be likely to seriously deteriorate.

"Such a result would be highly undesirable - especially as this region is popular for tourism and recreation," Dr Wright stated. "In addition, Meridian has submitted evidence that there may also be implications for the ability of the Waitaki Power Scheme to generate carbon-free electricity."

In her report, Change in the high country: Environmental stewardship and tenure review, the Commissioner recommended that the Minister should call in development applications that are proposals of national significance due to their potential for significant adverse effects on lakes or outstanding landscapes in the high country.

"These proposed dairy farms are just the kind of development I envisaged when making my recommendation," said Dr Wright.

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