Uncertainty swirls over Mackenzie dairy plan

Uncertainty swirls over Mackenzie dairy plan

newsroom article by David Williams

The legal battle over a large dairy farm planned for the Mackenzie Basin is heading to the High Court. David Williams reports.

The future of the Mackenzie Basin’s Simons Pass Station – a lightning rod for national environmental opposition – remains as unclear as a swirling effluent pond.

Dunedin businessman Murray Valentine has spent 16 years and millions of dollars gathering approvals, court settlements, and building infrastructure for a $100-million-plus dairy development at Simons Pass, near Lake Pukaki. Valentine told Newsroom last year he plans to irrigate 4500 hectares at the property – some of which is Crown lease land – and stock more than 15,000 animals, including 5500 cows. (The average herd size in New Zealand is 431 cows. The national herd is five million milking cows.)

As of late last year, 840 cows were being milked and Valentine says the development is about a quarter finished.

Last November, Canterbury’s regional council, ECan, gave Simons Pass a boostby publicly confirming the company’s irrigation consents, despite not having completed a baseline survey, which was one of the conditions of its consent. Official documents released to Newsroom reveal that decision was made against its own ecological advice.

Then, last month, Simons Pass’s irrigation plans hit an obstacle, with the Environment Court making declarations – sought by Mackenzie’s council – that it required further consents, under stricter district plan rules, to undertake irrigation and direct drilling. (Direct drilling is when seeds are drilled into unploughed soil.) Simons Pass has now appealed to the High Court.

Adding to the complex picture is the fact Mackenzie’s council, which has spent more than $1.4 million over a decade ushering in tougher development rules, confirms it has issued Simons Pass with an abatement notice for irrigating a portion of its land without consent.

And sitting above all this is tenure review.

Land Information New Zealand, the government agency tasked with running the controversial practice, expects consultation on a “substantive proposal” for Simons Pass to begin soon. That means the Mackenzie lease may slip through a closing net, successfully undertaking tenure review before the Government scraps it.

Read the full article here.

Last updated at 9:37AM on May 2, 2019