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Pilot Programme Seeks Otaika Water Details

Pilot Programme Seeks Otaika Water Details

Landowners in Whangarei’s Otaika catchment are being asked to provide details of their water use as part of a pilot local authority programme designed to ensure the region’s water resources aren’t over-allocated in future.

Northland Regional Council (NRC) rules currently allow people to take “reasonable” amounts of water each day for domestic, stock and other uses as a ‘permitted take’. (This means resource consent isn’t needed provided certain criteria are met.)

However, the Regional Council needs to know – and record – the combined impact that both permitted takes and those allowed under resource consents are having on Northland’s water resources; its rivers, streams and lakes and groundwater.

Emily Walker, the NRC’s Water Allocation Officer, says one of the main drivers behind the proposal is to make sure there’s enough water available in future to ensure those already getting it as a permitted take can continue to do so.

She says work to register permitted takes is part of an ongoing ‘Sustainable Water Allocation Project’ that has been running since last year and is not a direct response to the drought conditions currently affecting Northland.

However, she says the pressure the drought is placing on the region’s water resources is a good example of why the Regional Council needs to have a good idea about where and how water is being used.

“Obviously in the current drought conditions most people understand that water is a precious resource that needs to be conserved wherever possible.”

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However, Ms Walker says even when water supplies appear plentiful, it’s important to have an accurate picture about how much is actually being drawn from surface water (rivers, streams and lakes) and groundwater via wells and bores.

“Otherwise, there’s a risk that the Regional Council could unknowingly allocate water to someone that’s effectively already being used by other people.”

Ms Walker says the Otaika catchment has been chosen as a pilot for the project because it is both relatively small – with only several hundred landowners - but also boasts a good mix of uses from domestic to horticulture and farming.

The NRC plans to write to landowners in the Otaika area shortly asking them to complete a brief questionnaire on their water use, including where they get their water from (including those on town supply), how much they take in an average day and what they do with it.

The information will then be processed at no cost to the landowner and used by the NRC to estimate how much surface and groundwater is being used in the area.

Ms Walker says while legally people taking water under the permitted take system must provide information to the Council if requested, she’s hoping those in the Otaika catchment will do so voluntarily by Friday 18 February.

“It’s in everyone’s interests to provide this information because it will help us to ensure those already taking water can continue to do so in future.”

She says once the NRC has refined its permitted takes registration system using the Otaika data, it hopes to begin registering the thousands of other permitted takes in Northland over the next several years.

Meanwhile, Ms Walker says the rules governing permitted takes are covered in Part Five of the Regional Water and Soil Plan via: www.nrc.govt.nz/rwsp

ENDS

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