of the Central Plains Water Trust

The Trust continues the work of the Central Plains Water Enhancement Steering Committee. The Steering Committee was jointly formed by the two Councils in March 2000 to improve the security and prosperity of Central Canterbury through water management schemes that enhance ecological and recreational values while providing opportunity for agricultural and horticultural diversity.

The feasibility studies undertaken by the Central Plains Water Enhancement Steering Committee included extensive consultation, culminating in February 2002 with a report to the two parent councils. This report concluded that the technical feasibility, affordability and consentability of a scheme to provide water to irrigate 60,000 ha between the Rakaia and the Waimakariri Rivers was established to a level of confidence that justified taking further steps.

The Christchurch City and Selwyn District Councils accepted the findings of the feasibility report and provided funding for the project to continue. Funding from Christchurch City was via the Canterbury Economic Development Fund following an application made by Central Plains Water to the fund; and this funding has since been repaid.

In November 2002 Christchurch City and Selwyn District Councils decided that the most appropriate way forward for the project was through a trust. The formation of the Central Plains Water Trust, by the deed of declaration of trust dated 15 April 2003, was to enable consents to take and use water to be retained in public ownership, but provided flexibility to raise the funding required to complete preparation for a scheme independent of Council involvement and ratepayer risk. The Trust first met in March 2003, with the two Councils initially appointing 13 Trustees. Two of these appointments were made initially on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and another two on the recommendation of Te Runanga O Ngai Tahu. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment later withdrew from this role.

The Trust formed Central Plains Water Limited (CPWL) in 2004 to raise funding, primarily from those who would most directly gain economic benefit from the irrigation component of the proposed water enhancement scheme. CPWL successfully completed a capital raising exercise in December 2004 issuing shares to intending water users who had land capable of irrigation within the Scheme area, thus ensuring that the project proceed to the resource consenting phase. The role of CPWL has been to investigate, construct and operate a water management scheme for the Central Canterbury Plains. The company has undertaken this through a series of discrete projects, each of which is required to be funded prior to commencement. The Trust has been granted the necessary resource consents for the proposed water management scheme by the consenting authorities following a comprehensive hearings process under the Resource Management Act. As part of that process the Trust agreed to abandon an application to construct a water reservoir in the Waianiwaniwa Valley near Coalgate. The Scheme thereupon became a run of river scheme utilising water from both the Rakaia and Waimakiriri Rivers. Appeals were then lodged by various parties to the Environment Court. Consent appeal withdrawal documents were lodged 4 July 2012, and the consents were formally finalised and issued soon thereafter by the Environment Court. The Trust accordingly granted CPWL an exclusive license to use the resource consents as part of the original Memorandum of Agreement, which was revised and updated in 2016, underwhich CPWL is required to fully fund the Trust’s operations.

The company has completed the construction of Stage 1 of the scheme which was opened on 14 August 2015 and is now fully operational.

The company is now proceeding with initial design work for the remaining stages of the scheme (Stage 2 and the Sheffield area), and has raised the necessary funding for construction during 2017.

As the run of river scheme consented is inadequate at times of low flow for the desired level of reliability, additional storage was essential. CPWL has therefore agreed with Trustpower for up to 50 Million m3 of Lake Coleridge stored water, which is released when required into the Rakaia River and is then withdrawn downstream at the Scheme’s intake east of the Rakaia Gorge bridge.