It’s not quite neighbours at war, but a contentious stockwater race has divided a small corner of Mid Canterbury.
The Ashburton District Council declined an application to close the section of stockwater race in the Anama area, near Mayfield, for now.
It resolved to form a focus group to seek alternative options for supplying stockwater water to properties, and that a closure will be reviewed in 18 months.
The proposed closure affects 20 properties and had an even nine-nine split over the closure, and two that abstained.
The application took the rare step of going to a hearing where the councillors faced a difficult decision as either way, half the property owners were going to be frustrated.
The council opted not to leave properties without access to a stock water supply but at the same time issued notice that those property owners need to consider alternative options as the council’s long-term direction is closing stockwater races.
Councillor Russell Ellis said he is not always a big fan of compromises, but “in this case, this was the best solution”.
“Moving forward once there is an alternative we will then close another section of our stockwater race network.”
At the hearing deliberations,councillor Richard Wilson described it as an impossible decision.
“The right decision is to close the water race in the long term . . . but in the short term we have several submitters that have no water.”
Wilson was in favour of the closure but he said it can’t close right now as the alternative options hadn’t been fully investigated.
Mayor Neil Brown suggested a focus group be formed to work on possible alternative supplies and to review the closure in 18 months, around May 2024.
Representatives for 10 affected properties presented at a hearing where several factors were raised by the opposing sides causing some contradictions, such as if the race was a prevention of or cause for flooding.
The water quality of the race was called into question multiple times, as it is an inefficient way of delivering water.
But the cost was the big factor, in keeping the race and closing it.
Alistair Morrison was the applicant requesting the closure, and summed up the division as a case of the haves and have-nots.
“The people that don’t want the water race have got reliable wells and good water supply. The people objecting to the water race closing don’t seem to have a good water supply,” Morrison said.
He has fenced the race off on his property and doesn’t use it, but still has to pay a stockwater rate.
He wants to take the fences down, fill it in, and farm the land.
“Every bit of land is valuable and we can’t afford to have land taken up by poor quality water.
“People need to spend a little bit more money and get their own water supply rather than relying on other people.”
Two alternative options were identified, but as the initial recommendation was not to close the race there was no substantial analysis undertaken, but that will now be for the focus group to undertake.
The RDR is considered as an alternative supply option, but will require investigation to determine the exact costs for installing the necessary control gates, valves, and flow meters for such supply which the council has roughly estimated at least $50,000, plus the additional cost to pipe it to properties.
Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation (BCI) does not have any network located within the closure area, but does have the nearby Cavendish pond and a piped supply would be the only option at a significant cost.
- By Jonathan Leask