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Acquifer trial continues

A resource consent has been granted for the next stage of the Makauri Aquifer recharge trial and stage two will be fully funded, the District Council environment and planning committee will be told tomorrow.

A separate report to the committee says the council is on track to reach its reduction targets for the draw-off from the aquifer in 2020 and 2025.

A report from environmental and science manager Lois Easton says the council has received consent for stage two and new monitoring bores to support the trial have been drilled.

The council has been advised by Eastland Community Trust and the Provincial Growth Fund that funding for the project has been approved. Combined with council funding in the long-term plan, stage two will be fully funded.

The consent hearing was held last month before independent commissioner Mark Farnsworth, who adjourned it to obtain more information.

The council’s application was opposed by Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust.

The report says both ECT funding and the resource consent have conditions requiring engagement with Rongowhakaata and the next stage will be to engage with them to progress a required cultural impact report.

A mauri compass assessment of the trial is being done as part of the framework agreed with Te Aitanga a Mahaki. The consent also requires that the community liaison group set up for stage one of the trial continues.

Monitoring equipment is being installed. Several private bores that were used for monitoring have been closed. One will be replaced with a District Council bore in a similar location.

A separate report before the committee from senior water and coastal resources officer Sarah Thompson says the council is on target to reduce the total allocation from the aquifer to 1.7 million cubic metres by 2025.

The majority of water takes from the aquifer were reviewed between June and August this year, the report said.

Most of these expired on June 30 and some with a later expiry date were voluntarily offered for renewal.

Reduction targets were set out in the freshwater plan, which is now incorporated in the Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan.

The report said these would reduce the total annual allocation to 1.8 cubic metres by 2020, reduce the total allocation to 1.7 million cubic metres by 2025 and review the total allocation in 2025.

The council was on track to reach the 1.8 million cubic metre figure by 2020.

However, some very difficult discussions still needed to happen with consent-holders and it was likely some of the revised allocations would be subject to objections under Section 37A of the Resource Management Act.

Should an objection be lodged, then the applicant was able to seek a hearing of the consent.

The aquifer consent renewals were expected to be finalised by the end of August.

The objection period would be 15 working days after issuing the consent.

There were three reductions of the annual allocation that were greater than 80 percent and 12 between 50 and 70 percent.

The reductions required to meet the 2020 target were largely based on the highest water year from each individual consent holder over the past six years.

Nathan Guy (left) was in town to launch the Makauri aquifer recharge trial last year. Next to him are Gisborne District Council project manager Mark Joblin and Mayor Meng Foon. June 2017 file picture by Paul Rickard