Fish & Game says Environment Canterbury’s (ECan) recent amendments to planning provisions are nothing more than a "band-aid
solution" to critical overallocation and pollution of the region’s waterways.
One of the major areas of contention is the proposal to use managed aquifer recharge (MAR) which ECan claims will
"improve river flows across the region".
North Canterbury Fish & Game chief executive Rasmus Gabrielsson says MAR is a "false economy".
"For ECan to claim that MAR is the panacea for our rivers that dry up in summer because they have given too much ground
and surface water away for irrigation is a bit on the nose.
"ECan has been warned for over a decade that it wasn’t managing water allocation sustainably and now they’re
congratulating themselves for parking an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff."
North Canterbury and Central South Island Fish & Game submitted on ECan’s Plan Change 7 in relation to tighter controls on MAR, and those submissions were accepted.
However, the wider issue for MAR is sourcing the water.
"The big question about aquifer recharge is where the water is supposed to come from," says Gabrielsson. "We should just
leave more water in the rivers and aquifers in the first place to protect the health of the region’s rivers and drinking
Central South Island Fish & Game resource officer Angela Christensen says the only likely source for MAR water is the alpine braided rivers, as all
surrounding waterways are already overallocated.
"This is essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul."
Christensen says it is still unclear how exactly MAR will work.
"The Rangitata River, even with a Water Conservation Order on it, has no high-flow allocation cap, so will its higher
flows be sought after for MAR? Or will ECan permit changes which allow water earmarked for drinking water to be used for
She points out ECan has had no option other than to promote the use of MAR because otherwise it will fail to achieve its
nutrient reduction limits, which for many of our lowland and plains waterbodies still do not go far enough to provide
for ecosystem health and wellbeing.
"MAR is a band-aid solution as it doesn’t address the amount of nutrients being dumped on the land, which is the major
Gabrielsson agrees ECan needs to focus on tackling the tough issues around unsustainable land-use activities that
pollute Christchurch drinking water by further reducing nitrogen losses and increasing minimum flows for rivers and
streams in Canterbury.
"This would enable current and future Cantabrians to enjoy an improved standard of water quality and quantity."