The Green Party is calling for the Central Plains Water's problem-plagued scheme to be halted immediately so that it can be properly reviewed.
This project, which aims to boost dairying in Canterbury, is going to have wide-ranging, irreversible impacts, Green's Environment Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.
"Dairying is responsible for about 20 percent of the incremental growth in New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. A large part of that is driven by the expansion and intensification of dairying in unsuitable areas — such as in Canterbury.
"Ironically, this project depends in part on melted snow and ice from the Southern Alps, but these icy reservoirs will be reduced, if not disappear, if climate change continues on its current path. Today's World Environment Day theme of melting ice reminds us of the urgent need to take seriously the threat of climate change on our water resources.
"Just today, we have been told that councillors have been threatened with personal liability for Central Plains Water if the project falls over. This is outrageous. It appears from news reports that they were not so warned when entering into the arrangement in the first place, calling into question the impartiality of advice offered to councillors.
"The specifics of the scheme appear to have undergone significant changes since first proposed, to the extent that the validity of a number of historical decisions are called into question. This includes the original decision by the Minister for the Environment to grant Central Plains Water requiring authority, and the decisions by Selwyn and Christchurch councils to invest in the scheme.
"These changes and problems should be cause for halt and full review of the scheme in the public interest.
"Any decision affecting water rights in the Canterbury area should be deferred until the Government has completed its programme of action on water and until problems of over-allocation have been resolved.
"The real issue is that increasing water intensive dairying on the highly porous soils of the Canterbury Plains should be discouraged, not facilitated by councils. It is inappropriate land use, and will have major impacts on water quality and on access to water for more appropriate land use. It will boost greenhouse gas emissions, and nitrification of waterways.
"In particular, councils should be looking at finding ways to ensure that dairy farming pays its own costs to encourage appropriate land use and curb expansion into inappropriate areas, in a bid for bigger profits," Nandor says.