Residents aim to solve water concerns at public meeting

SAD STATE: The Selwyn River has recorded record low flows in recent months. PHOTO: RICHARD COSGROVE

Residents and farmers hoping to address ongoing concerns over how water in the Selwyn-Waihora catchment is managed are battling on.

A public meeting with Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Alistair Humphrey and Fish and Game environmental adviser Scott Pearson on water issues will be held on Thursday.

Fifth-generation dairy farmer Alison Dewes, who is also an ecologist and veterinarian, Farmers for Positive Change leader Rick Burke and Freshwater ecologist Russell Death will also travel from the North Island to speak.

It comes after new group Selwyn Waihora Water Improvement Mission was formed last month in a bid to find a solution to water issues in the district.

Residents and farmers from around the district have collaborated together to focus on health issues in drinking water and the level of nitrate in wells.

Selwyn Waihora Water Improvement Mission member Mike Glover said the meeting is not to be negative about farmers but to look at positive ways forward.

Concerns have been raised over the Central Plains Water scheme leading to the intensification of agriculture and a higher nitrogen load going into Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora.

In a joint decision by independent commissioners in May 2010 on the construction and operation of the CPW scheme, it was acknowledged infants up to six months who are being bottle-fed could be at risk from an increase in nitrate-nitrogen reaching shallow water.

The report said: “The risk can be avoided by sourcing alternative small quantities of water for the critical six-month period from deep community bores . . . CPW has offered this,”.

A CPW spokeswoman confirmed it will immediately supply alternative drinking water to domestic dwellings that have infants at the time of an increase in nitrate-nitrogen levels.

Mr Glover said the community is being forced to cope with stresses they shouldn’t have to and it is important people realise what potential risks there are.

He said the group is not against farming but the way the land is being farmed needs to change.

In May, Selwyn Times reported tensions came to a head at the Selwyn Waihora Water Zone Committee over democracy surrounding water issues and the effects of farming intensification.

As a result Environment Canterbury has been running a series of seminars to attempt to reduce tensions.

The meeting will be held this Thursday at the Lincoln High School hall, 7-9pm.