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Saturday, April 17, 2021

$5m to accelerate Hawke’s Bay water storage options

The Provincial Development Unit has allocated $5 million to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to accelerate investigations into a water storage development in the Heretaunga region for environmental, productive and municipal purposes. 

The funding includes $1.3 million for a feasibility study on developing a lowland stream flow maintenance scheme using above-ground water storage. If the study confirms the project’s viability, the PDU will provide a further $3.7m of loan funding to help pay for the construction of new water storage infrastructure. 

Initially the project will focus on expansion of an existing water storage scheme on private land at Te Tua Station directly above Bridge Pa.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Water Security Director, Tom Skerman says the state of lowland waterways in Heretaunga is a pressing concern for the Regional Council, tangata whenua and the wider community of Hawke’s Bay. 

“It is not good enough for these lowland streams to run dry as they frequently do now during the height of summer and unless we act these impacts will worsen with a changing climate,” said Mr Skerman.

“We are tackling the critical issue of improving our freshwater health and managing demand on a number of fronts, including the catchment plan change for Tūtaekurī, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamū, which will establish limits for the taking of water,” he said.

“We are actively investigating a range of water storage options in the Heretaunga catchment to support environmental flows in the region’s waterways and we welcome the support to move faster on investigating the Te Tua water storage option. 

“Our freshwater challenges are complex, yet we are clear that our focus is on protecting the environment first and foremost. We acknowledge the frustration around the time that developing these solutions takes.”

Mr Skerman says while the Te Tua water storage facility is an option that can significantly improve environmental conditions in lowland streams relatively quickly, access to the site needs to be secured, and full feasibility and community engagement needs to be undertaken.

“Constructive conversations with the landowner are underway,” he said.

“We have heard very clearly the concerns of the Bridge Pa community in particular and are urgently looking at solutions,” says Mr Skerman. “Any investment in securing water storage to support our environment, either through expanding the Te Tua facility and/ or developing new storage facilities, is proposed to be paid for by the users of water in the catchment.”

Mr Skerman says water security is becoming an increasing challenge across the whole of Hawke’s Bay as demand for water increases and nature’s ability to deliver is impacted by climate change.

The Heretaunga storage investigations are part of a regional water security programme to secure the region’s freshwater supplies, to protect natural environments and to ensure the life-giving benefits of freshwater are equitably shared.

In the programme there are three pieces of work that are supported by up to $35 million in Provincial Growth Fund funding: 

•    The region’s first ever Regional Water Assessment;
•    The development of freshwater storage options in the region to provide greater resilience for our natural environment, our people and our economy;
•    Piloting the potential of Managed Aquifer Recharge in Central Hawke’s Bay to supplement the aquifer and groundwater system.

More information on the Regional Council’s regional water security programme is at: hbrc.govt.nz/hawkes-bay/projects/regional-water-security-programme/

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