Illegal irrigators watch out

New software and computer tablets are making it easier to identify property owners who are taking water from wells and rivers for irrigation illegally.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council used the new tools for the first time this week and found three properties in the Twyford area in Hastings which were taking water without required resource consents.

There was now a tighter focus on water use moving into the summer period when river levels were low and underground water sources would be coming under pressure.

The council's compliance and harbours manager Bryce Lawrence said staff had previously been able to make checks on water users, but were now able to use the technology while in the field.

"This gives us access to our resource consent database on site so we can immediately confirm whether or not the property we see irrigating is doing so legally."

Irrigators were asked to check their resource consents to make sure they knew the conditions.

Those using water for irrigation without a resource consent needed to contact the council immediately. It would offer a two-week amnesty to anyone taking water or irrigating without a consent.

The amnesty will run from Monday, November 12, through until Friday, November 23.

Mr Lawrence said the council wanted to give people a chance to "do the right thing".

"Not only are these activities illegal, they make it difficult for HBRC to manage our community's water resources accurately. It is also unfair to those property owners who have consents and are therefore contributing to the science that HBRC must do to manage our shared water resources. They are effectively subsidising illegal irrigators," he said.

The council's resource manager Iain Maxwell said compliance officers would target areas which were sensitive because the water resource was either close to being allocated, or fully allocated.

There would also be random audits in other areas. Those found breaching consent conditions could face abatement notices or court prosecution warned Mr Maxwell.

"The chance of detection is therefore quite high now, so I urge all irrigators to check they are taking their water legally. After the amnesty, our flexibility with solutions will be reduced," he said.

Anyone who does not have a consent or is not sure if they have the right consents to irrigate their land, should phone consents manager Malcolm Miller on 06 835 2953.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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