Saturday, December 2, 2023

Another consent for Simons Pass

Neal Wallace
Simons Pass Station might now have consent to irrigate part of the Mackenzie Basin farm but owner Murray Valentine says he still faces a lengthy process to have multiple other consents signed off.
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An independent commissioner has granted consent to irrigate about 750ha, which already has infrastructure installed. Mackenzie District Council consent to irrigate was needed because of the landscape features.

“For us it is just about getting things sorted that need to be sorted,” Valentine said.

The 9700ha station is at the southern end of Lake Pukaki between Tekapo and Twizel and since 2005 Valentine has been seeking resource consent to convert part of it to dairying.

That means getting consent to take and use water, discharge effluent, build infrastructure such as dairy sheds and to install a water pipeline.

“It is an ongoing process, a continuation of ticking off one thing after another.”

The property is made up of both freehold land and Crown pastoral lease and is still primarily a beef and sheep farm, with about 1300 beef cattle and calves, 7000 sheep and 840 dairy cows. Milking began in August 2018.

The farm operates as a closed unit in conjunction with a 2000-cow dairy farm he owns in North Otago.

Valentine says of the 35,000 stock units, less than a third are dairy cows.

“Dairying is an important part of what we are doing but they are not the main stock units.”

Council records show many of the Simons Pass consents have been appealed against but some were settled and granted in September 2016 and included agreement to set aside 2500ha as a dryland recovery area.

Half of that area is on freehold land and Valentine has agreed to spend $100,000 a year restoring indigenous species.

In addition to that commitment Valentine has also agreed to monthly monitoring of water quality at 10 surface and six ground water sites on the property at a cost of $3000 a month.

His resource consent requires annual monitoring. 

“Water quality is my number one priority. You can’t have a farm that degrades water quality.”

Following conversations with Environment Canterbury Valentine believes the property will meet the water quality thresholds outlined in the Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms.

He wants eventually to milk about 5000 cows through three sheds and irrigate 4500ha, of which 1500ha will be a dairy platform.

Despite the prolonged process to secure all the necessary resource consents, Valentine, a Dunedin accountant, hopes to avoid litigation with council and ECan as they work through any contentious issues with remaining consents.

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