Central Plains Scheme to increase flows in Selwyn River

SAD STATE: The Selwyn River has dried up at Coes Ford apart from a couple of algae covered pools. PHOTO: RICHARD COSGROVE

The proposed use of Central Plains Water Scheme water to increase flows in the Selwyn River is likely to go ahead.

However, one of the remaining questions is how the project would be funded.

On Wednesday, the zone committee led a workshop at the Lincoln Event Centre to progress its campaign on making Coes Ford swimmable again. About 80 people, including farmers and environmentalists, turned up.

The zone committee has agreed in principle to look into augmenting the Selwyn River’s flow with CPW water.

Selwyn Waihora Zone Committee chairman Allen Lim said most people at the workshop had been positive about the idea.

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“One of the pipes essentially has to cross the Selwyn River anyway so we thought we would just take an off take from there,” he said.

“It’s yet to be totally confirmed but given the level of interest, the likelihood of that project going ahead is much higher.”

There were several parties which would have to come together and reach agreement to make it happen but he declined to comment further on who that would involve.

“It’s about funding and who pays for what,” Mr Lim said.

“This Swimmable Selwyn initiative has actually gone past ECan and I think even central government is probably talking about it.”

It comes at a time when the river at Coes Ford has dried up apart from a couple of algae covered pools.

Mr Lim acknowledged that augmenting the flow alone would not be enough to improve the river’s health. Cleaning up the Silverstream catchment, a major contributor of nutrients causing high E. coli levels at Coes Ford, would be another priority.

The zone committee was aware there was a strong desire in the community to see Coes Ford swimmable again.

Higher flows would help flush nutrients through instead of concentrating them at Coes Ford.

CPW water would likely be used to augment the river between later autumn and early spring. The water would top up groundwater first before flowing into the river.

“It could take a year to fill up, we just don’t know,” Mr Lim said.

Fish and Game general manager and Environment Canterbury councillor Rod Cullinane said the augmentation plan could be a positive move but it would depend on what effect taking water which would otherwise flow elsewhere would have.

“If we can get some water back in there without robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak, we would support that,” he said.

Springston South artist and water quality campaigner Mike Glover said he wanted to know who would pay for the augmentation.

“Does that mean the ratepayers will be paying a private company money for this water?”

He was also concerned that increasing the flow of the Selwyn would also simply flush the nutrients down to Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere and the sea where they would also cause problems.

A CPW spokeswoman said the augmentation plan was a council led process.

“CPW is here to help and to try and be a part of that,” she said.

Last week the Government announced a target of 90 per cent of 90 per cent of the country’s rivers and lakes being swimmable by 2040.