With nearly three quarters (70%) of New Zealand’s irrigated land, Canterbury uses more than half (58%) of the country’s total allocated fresh water. Near two thirds (65%) of hydro-storage capacity is in Canterbury – generating around a quarter of the nation’s power through hydro-electricity. Source of stats: Environment Canterbury, Feb 2010 - Dr Bryan Jenkins.
The recent decision to impose a 14 month moratorium on consents to take, dam, divert or use water on the Hurunui River and tributaries from August 2, 2010, required approval from the Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith.
According to one government-appointed Commissioner, the moratorium will ensure an improved process for the management of water in the Hurunui catchment, with such a process, a first in New Zealand’s local authority history. Environment Canterbury commissioner, Peter Skelton argues (The Press, 23/7/2010) that:
The decision will also enhance kaitiakitanga, or guardianship over water – which is deeply embedded in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy - and recognises the importance of working with Ngai Tahu and other stakeholders to find creative and locally relevant solutions to water management issues. The Hurunui River is highly significant to Ngai Tahu and is one of seven major alpine braided rivers in Canterbury…While the farming demands on the Hurunui catchment water resources are high – with around 10,000 hectares of existing irrigation – there are also strong recreational, ecological, fishing, and cultural values for the river…
Four statutory processes are impacting water management in the Hurunui catchment. Commissioner, Peter Skelton, describes these:
- The proposed Natural Resources Regional Plan (submissions have been heard and decisions are expected later this year).
- Variation 8 to the proposed NRRP which sets environmental flows for the lower Hurunui River (submissions have been received but not yet heard).
- An application for a Water Conservation Order affecting the Upper Hurunui Catchment (currently in the statutory processes provided for in the Environment Canterbury Act).
- The Hurunui Water Project’s suite of consent applications for water to irrigate an additional 42,000 hectares that are currently being processed under the Resource Management Act towards a hearing…
Environment Canterbury commissioners have endorsed the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS), which, though not a statutory instrument, has some recognition under the Environment Canterbury Act. According to Peter Skelton, the CWMS:
…advocates an integrated approach to water management across the region incorporating a vision and a set of principles against which all management decisions should be evaluated.