Ashburton has a potent weapon as it, like all districts, seeks to comply with proposals for freshwater reform.
Mayor-elect Neil Brown, who has a keen interest in water matters, said water – wastewater, stormwater, water for irrigation – was going to loom large for the Ashburton council and all others.
But in its managed aquifer recharge programme – a programme praised by Environment Minister David Parker – Ashburton had the jump on many.
The programme involves using clean consented (but unused) Ashburton council stockwater.
It is percolated into the ground at various sites, diluting nitrate levels and lifting aquifer levels.
Early trial results have been very promising.
The water is also used to boost streams, such as behind Mayfield where consented water from the Rangitata Diversion race is run into a wetland and, from there, to boost the flow to the Hinds River.
The Hinds Water Enhancement Group, which runs the programme, believes the water from the RDR is helping the Mayfield bore and other supplies.
The enhancement group is seeking $950,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund to expand the trials and is expecting to hear the outcome of its application soon.
Mr Brown said the obvious source of water for the aquifer scheme was unused council stockwater.
He said if more of the district’s stockwater could be piped, less water would be needed (only around 2 per cent of stockwater is drunk by stock) allowing more for the aquifer scheme – not irrigation.
He said the managed aquifer scheme could be the district’s saviour by improving underground water quality across the district.
“Our three rivers (Rakaia, Ashburton, Rangitata) meet targets now. It’s just the shallow aquifers and streams that don’t meet targets now,” he said.
Mr Brown, a farmer, said the big rivers were pure and the district needed an achievable level of freshwater reform that did not destroy the economic value of the district.
Stormwater was another issue, and under the proposed reforms, it would have to be treated.
“So the town has some work to do, too and we have to do stormwater better.”
“One good thing is that we are way ahead. We have money in our Long Term Plan for stormwater.”
Mr Brown said his priority in the next few days would be talking to all councillors about their interests as he tried to work out who would serve as deputy and head committees.
He hoped to have that done by the end of next week, or by the end of the month.
Mr Brown was brought up at Rakaia and had “farming in his veins”.
He worked on sheep and dairy farms, went to Lincoln University, and bought a farm after going sharemilking and “through the ranks to ownership”.
He said he owned Salmon Tales building at Rakaia and also had some low-key business property interests.