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Turning Northland’s water problems into economic solutions

April 10, 2019


Smart-thinking water schemes will turn Northland’s water problems into economic solutions

Northland Inc’s acting CEO says that Northland’s economy is thirsty for water storage and use solutions as the districts suffer from Jekyll and Hyde weather patterns that leave our horticultural industry and the wider economy under pressure.

Vaughan Cooper welcomed Friday’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) announcement of $18.5 million as a major boost for Northland to help unlock potential for the Mid-North and Kaipara.

Northland Regional Council will receive the funding, and will work with other councils in the region, iwi and the community to undertake necessary work to support the project’s construction.

Northland Inc proposed the initial, region-wide study which kick-started the project.
A number of previous studies into water storage and use, and this recently announced initiative, are part of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan, which is being facilitated and supported by Northland Inc.

The previous studies identified that water storage and use option projects in the mid-North and Kaipara could potentially create hundreds of jobs and boost the region’s economy by tens of millions annually.

These studies were co-funded through Northland Regional Council’s Investment and Growth Reserve, which is administered by Northland Inc.

“This is a region where we get pretty high rainfall in one season and drought in another. How do we work it so that rainfall becomes an asset, and how do we future-proof our region in light of climate change challenges?

“We need to focus on new water storage and use schemes to ease the impact of drought and also deliver economic and environmental benefits.”

There is a need to investigate the environmental and ecological impacts of any new water storage facility and land use, with changes in greenhouse gases, nutrients and sediment all forming part of that further investigative work.

It is envisioned that any future plans would focus on horticultural use, rather than enabling the conversion of land to dairy.
“Growers could never afford to build these schemes on their own and these are the kinds of projects that we, as Northland leaders in economic development, local and central government, need to be championing to support our industries,” said Mr Cooper.

Announcing the funding at Rangi Pt in the Hokianga on April 5, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said a more reliable water supply, with Kaipara and Far North-based water storage and use options, could boost the horticulture industry by $150 million, bolstering employment with the creation of up to 1150 jobs.

“Developing water storage is a complex and time-consuming exercise, requiring high calibre technical regulatory, environmental and commercial capability,” Minister Jones said.

“I’m pleased this project will be developed in a way that meets these standards. The Mid North has massive potential and after years of neglect we’re unlocking this through the PGF,” he said.

Construction, if feasible, would be years away but analysis of water supply and storage options, as well as assessment of potential water user demand, environmental impacts and financial modelling could progress sooner.

Some PGF funding would be used for this analysis and the remainder made available as a loan for construction, should viable water storage and distribution networks be identified.

*** ENDS ***

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