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A Government investigation into the Otago Regional Council around freshwater management has potential to end up with Central Government hijacking the process, says National Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean.

“The Government has decided to conduct this investigation because it believes the council is not prepared for up-coming work transposing hundreds of water permits into modern resource consents in 2021.

“It would be concerning if this investigation was to result in the Government imposing its own agenda around minimum flows affecting Otago freshwater management, without appropriate community input and consultation. 

“I also find this highly unusual, particularly when the regional council has actually done nothing wrong, yet the Environment Minister has seen fit to step in and launch this inquiry.

“Fish and Game’s ringing endorsement of Mr Parker’s investigation also raises a red flag for me and should be cause for concern amongst all involved.

“I think the regional council and its ratepayers deserve more details here, particularly around David Parker’s motivation for this appraisal and exactly what he hopes to achieve.

“The investigation undermines the council and will be worrying many of the people affected by these upcoming water rights, including Central Otago farmers, developers and fruit and wine growers.

"Hundreds of permits, arising from 19th-century mining operations, are due to expire around Otago in 2021, affecting communities across Central Otago, but the council says it already has a plan in place to work through them and meet its obligations under the Resource Management Act.

“The Minister, on the other hand, has been vague about his interest in Otago water management and I have some real concerns around Central Government sticking its oar into the work of local authorities.”

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