Rivers Run Dry In Christchurch

  • 14/07/2016

With Environment Canterbury recording its lowest levels in almost 30 years for the headwaters of the Avon, Heathcote and Styx rivers and suburban streams like the Ilam, Waimairi and Wairarapa drying up this year, urgent action is needed over water allocation.

FGNZ Ilam11 1Right: North Canterbury Fish and Game General Manager Rod Cullinane on the dried up Ilam Stream near the University of Canterbury’s Staff Club building.

North Canterbury Fish and Game General Manager Rod Cullinane says “we are very much of the view that there’s got to be some link between what we’re seeing in the lack of water in the inner city streams and the irrigation draw off in inland Canterbury. We do not accept Ecan’s reasoning that it is purely down to a lack of rainfall”

Cullinane visited streams in the Christchurch suburb of Ilam this week and saw first-hand the poor state that these suburban streams are in.

The silted up Avon River is barely a metre wide in places where it historically has been at least five times wider, and it would be generous to describe it as “ankle deep”.

Its tributary the Ilam Stream is almost non-existent with minimal surface flow and it would be more accurate to describe it as a swamp rather than a stream.

Fish and Game wants ECan to reveal exactly how much water is consented for irrigation in Canterbury.

Cullinane says “We have asked ECan to provide us with the data for the 50 biggest water users in Canterbury, when this information is provided we are sure that the public will be shocked with how much water is being used in Canterbury”.

North Canterbury Fish and Game is calling for ECan to develop “adaptive management” methods to protect the region’s waterways.

The minimum flow approach is clearly not working, due to its inability to regulate water usage rates outside of a five year plan cycle.

Consent reviews rarely happen, so we need better conditions that pro-rata water use based on instream health and climatic conditions season to season. Town water supplies are regulated this way so why not the irrigators.


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