Wairarapa Water Ltd secures PGF funding
Friday 24th May 2019
Wairarapa Water Ltd has scored a substantial win for the region by securing $800,000 of funding from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for its Wakamoekau community water storage project.
The announcement from the PGF earlier today marks the first significant success for the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy (WEDS) and its Governance Group.
The project has the potential to provide up to 18 million cubic meters of stored water in the hills above Masterton within the next six years which can be used by the region during the critical dry periods.
The successful application, which was supported by WEDS as well as Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa-Tamaki Nui a Rua Settlement Trust and Rangitāne Tū Mai Rā Trust, described the need for further work to be done on the Wakamoekau project in order to confirm it as a key option in the development of a resilient freshwater supply to Wairarapa. Wairarapa Water Ltd requested funding from the PGF to build-on the earlier investigation work completed by Greater Wellington Regional Council in June 2018 while taking into account the Whaitua Committee’s recommendation to increase minimum river flows and the latest climate change forecasts from NIWA.
The project is a collaboration between Water Wairarapa Ltd representing private water users, the three Wairarapa councils, Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and is now supported by Central Government, because of its potential to address urban, environmental, industrial and farming security of water supply needs due to climate change pressures expected over the next 20 to 50 years. The Stakeholder Advisory Group, which was formed in 2011, continues to advise the project and represents 18 member organisations including iwi, environmental, farming, health, recreation, local government and business interests.
Chair of Wairarapa Water Ltd, Tim Lusk, said PGF funding for the project now means specialist work can be done to confirm whether the Wakamoekau site can provide at least part of the solution to water supply security in the summer months.
“Over a dozen local businesses attended a recent water users’ forum in Wairarapa and voiced their concerns about potential water shortages, the importance of reliable water is to their operations, and how they could expand processes if given access to a greater supply.
“Central Government support at this point is also key to gaining the confidence of our communities and investors that we can develop a realistic time bound option. The further we go, the more we open up the significant opportunity for Wairarapa farmers to transition to the higher value crops that climate change and water security would unlock.
“Based on experience in other parts of NZ, the minute you commit to building significant water storage, you will see the land use start to change as farmers look to invest in higher-value crops,” Lusk said.
Chair of the Governance Group for the implementation of the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy, Dame Margaret Bazley, said “Ensuring resilient access to freshwater has been identified as the most significant and immediate priority for the region, and is a key focus of our strategy. We were delighted to support Wairarapa Water Ltd in their application.”
The funding also allows for community engagement, consent planning, further fund raising and the development of appropriate commercial structures to take the project forward provided the collaborating parties are in agreement once the validation work has been done.
Now that this decision has been made, it is important that the various water initiatives are pulled together into one water strategy ensuring sustainability and security of water for the Wairarapa.