Environment Canterbury today welcomed the declaration by the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy, of a medium-scale adverse event from the “big dry”.
Chief Executive Bill Bayfield said the announcement would give the farmers and their families who need it most access to support, and would also highlight the dry weather challenges for farmers to the wider community.
“Our people in the field are working with and supporting farmers every day,” Mr Bayfield said. “We are seeing historic low flows in some of our rivers and very low groundwater levels as well.
“However, it is crucial that farmers have access to the water they need for stock and for consented irrigation. Access to water for these purposes is top priority both for farmers and for Canterbury’s economy.”
It is important to note that the ability to irrigate is not unrestricted. Almost every river in Canterbury has a minimum flow level which is in place to protect the environment. Water take consent conditions are written to make sure irrigation water takes stop when a minimum flow is reached.
Some groundwater takes are also subject to river low-flow restrictions because they are directly linked to a nearby river or stream. Bill Bayfield said some farmers are able to continue irrigating because they have groundwater takes that are not directly linked to rivers on restriction due to low flows. “If you see irrigation happening near a low-flow river, for example, that may not be having an impact on its flow,” he said.
Groundwater consent holders also have conditions which include the maximum rate of take as well as a total annual volume that can be used.
Most water take restrictions as a result of low river flows are updated daily by Environment Canterbury scientists and are available at www.ecan.govt.nz – go to Irrigation Restrictions in the Get it Done Online section on the home page. If you have a water take and need further advice or have any questions, please contact Customer Services on 0800 324 636.
“If a farmer’s access to stockwater or irrigation water is subject to resource consent conditions, Environment Canterbury will carefully consider those conditions and the individual’s circumstances with the current situation at the front of our minds. Do contact us if you have any issues,” Bill Bayfield said.
“We will do everything we can to help farmers get appropriate access to water at this particularly difficult time. We definitely don’t want to see livestock suffering needlessly.”