1492494515201 - High country agribusinessman doggedly pursues consent

High country agribusinessman doggedly pursues consent

The high country Cass River area in Arthurs Pass made famous in paintings by Rita Angus is where P&E has been granted resource consent to disturb the riverbed and take water to irrigate a farm.

The application has proved a battle ground between P&E and Environment Canterbury for at least five years and is due for a sequel in the High Court in June.  

The owner of the company, Pete Morrison, said the consent had been granted but Environment Canterbury was still appealing the minimum level at which water abstraction must cease.

His father the late Pat Morrison was one of the founders of the huge Central Plains Water Irrigation scheme, which ironically was a submitter against P&E because of fears of its own water entitlements.

READ MORE: * Grasmere Station owners ‘doing everything humanly possible’ to limit lake pollution * Consents hearing for Cass River plan begins   

P&E’s application has attracted attention because of the 550 hectare farm’s proximity to Lake Grasmere and other tributaries near where the Cass River feeds into the Waimakariri River.

Proposed Ecan conditions included the farm cease taking water when the river fell below 800 litres a second immediately below the irrigation intake, plus 15-minute monitoring of the river flow.

P&E proposal would enable 200 litres per second below the 800 trigger, which Ecan’s experts said would mean an actual minimum flow of 600 litres a second.

Ecan sought 15-minute monitoring because of the rapid rise and fall of the Cass River, rather than 24 hour monitoring as proposed by P&E.

Other conditions required ground water monitoring in the swampy land around Lake Grasmere. 

Morrison has previously outlined how the irrigation would assist in providing grazing for young cattle and sheep but was not intended to facilitate a dairy operation. 

An Environment Canterbury resource consent panel initially declined the consent application in 2013, because of concerns about effects on Lake Grasmere water quality and overall water allocation in the Waimakariri River catchment.

P&E appealed and in late 2016 the Environment Court issued an interim decision giving consent with conditions.

Environment Canterbury appealed that decision to the High Court, seeking to have it overturned and the consent declined.

The High Court in February 2017 directed the matter back to the Environment Court to work out agreement between the parties on conditions, which Ecan will appeal.

Final ratification of conditions will lie with the High Court after the next hearing expected at the end of June.

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