Sir Russell Coutts' home on the Crown Terrace with part of his private golf course above. Photo: Mountain Scene


A Knight and a Queenstown tourism identity are battling with their neighbours, including an English aristocrat, over plans to take water from two Whakatipu creeks.

The plans have been mooted by BSTGT Ltd — its directors and shareholders are Sir Russell
Coutts and Grant Coutts — and former Real Journeys commercial boss Tony McQuilkin’s
family trust, the A.P. McQuilkin Family Trust.

They’ve asked for the green light to take water from the Royal Burn North Branch and New
Chums Creek, tributaries of the Arrow River, to irrigate a private golf course, a turf-growing operation, and pastoral land beside Arrow Junction’s Glencoe Road.

Their application to Otago Regional Council, which was subject to a hearing in Queenstown
before commissioner Rob van Voorthuysen last week, came ahead of the expiration of five permits in October, which allow water to be withdrawn via pipes and channels, for example.

Water sought: Sir Russell Coutts

While experts for the applicants suggest there’ll be minimal impact on the rivers, as no  native fish or sensitive wildlife are present, long-term Crown Terrace resident Jef  Desbecker claims, if allowed, the application will destroy two large water ecosystems.

Desbecker says the applicants are asking for 1,214,683,000 litres — or 38.5 litres a second — a year, but believes that could become 77 litres per second if it’s mainly used in the summer, when irrigation’s most needed.

‘‘These figures have no regard for the health of the creeks, the other downstream users, or any thing other than taking all the water.’’

He also believes the application ‘‘blatantly flies in the face’’ of national freshwater policies introduced last September, designed to protect and improve water bodies.

Second applicant: Tony McQuilkin

Berri Schroder of nearby Bloomsbury Stud and billionaire Henrietta Russell, Duchess of Bedford – a shareholder in Bloomsbury Stud – both argue the risk to amphibians in the area hasn’t been considered.

Other submitters suggest chemicals used to maintain a golf course will pollute the water