LTP: Stockwater service in the spotlight

Published: 10 April 2024

Council’s stockwater system was once a crucial open race network delivering water to farms around the district, but by today’s standards it is an inefficient and expensive way to deliver water to livestock.

The draft Long Term Plan out now for feedback asks if Council should get out of providing stockwater and this key decision will be a focus at a community meeting at Hinds on Monday 15 April.

Mayor Neil Brown said Council currently operated 1600km of stockwater races, which provided water for livestock on about 1000 properties.

“The water is mostly used for animals but there are other benefits, like supporting biodiversity, providing food sources and land drainage. It was once a big system of open races, but over the past 20 years the stockwater network has more than halved as landowners have requested closures because they have switched to piped water.”

Council’s stockwater service also relies on having sufficient water to keep races flowing, but Council cannot guarantee there will be enough water, especially in hot dry summers like this past one.

Mayor Brown said Council’s preferred option was to exit the stockwater service by 30 June 2027.

“Staying long-term in the business of providing stockwater would mean spending a lot of money on upgrading the system. Environment Canterbury also requires our stockwater takes from the rivers to have fish screens, and these will be another big additional cost."

If it was decided to exit stockwater, Council would still look after specific races that could not be closed (due to natural watercourses or ecological benefits).

Other stockwater options included in the draft Long Term Plan include continuing to provide the stockwater service (with significant investment) and maintaining a closure programme over time (with minimal investment).

Mayor Brown said it currently cost about $1.3 million a year to operate the service and while individual properties paid for the service, all ratepayers contributed a portion through the general rate.

“We know there is a big range of views on what we should do with our stockwater service and I encourage people to visit and read more about it, or come to any of our meetings and ask a question.”

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