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Watershed agreement to end water bans

Watershed agreement to end water bans

A watershed agreement announced today in Hawke’s Bay could be the start to ending irrigation bans across New Zealand.

The agreement, between a group of Twyford landowners in Hastings and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, comes three years after a total water ban sparked grower outcry and public protests.

Under the agreement landowners in catchment area have agreed to “give to gain” by signing over their existing individual water rights to become part of a group stewardship model under a global consent.

Led by growers and supported by Horticulture New Zealand and Pipfruit New Zealand, the agreement is being heralded as an exciting step forward for leading future water irrigation management in New Zealand.

Twyford Co-operative chairman and HortNZ representative Jerf van Beek said this “watershed agreement” provides landowners, growers and farmers across the Twyford catchment with certainty and reliability of water, even in severe Hawke’s Bay Regional Council resource management group manager Iain Maxwell said growers can now tap into all the available allocated water, when and where it’s needed, as determined by the grower group.

“It is a great environmental and economic solution that meets high expectations of the public on managing water rights within the limits outlined by the Resource Management Act, without trade-offs or compromises.

“Our agreement could lead to a change in the way irrigators and councils work through irrigation bans throughout New Zealand,” Mr Maxwell said.

Pipfruit New Zealand chief executive Alan Pollard said it showed how the irrigator and regulator could work together for a practical and pragmatic “We now have an industry template for others to follow,” he said.

Three years ago the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council imposed a total water ban across Twyford when rivers reached crisis levels, sparking unprecedented grower outcry and public protest against the decision.

The Twyford Co-operative catchment, west of Hastings, covers 1292 hectares of fertile growing land for pipfruit, grapes and cropping. It has 166 water consents in the unconfined and semi confined Heretaunga aquifer.

Twyford grower and protester at the time Kevin Bayley, who is one of the first to sign into the global consent, said uniting to share water would protect all landowners.

Mr Bayley owns and leases over 200ha of confined, semi-confined and unconfined land across the Heretaunga Plains growing fruit and vegetables.

“Why should my neighbour be penalised for a lack of water when I have more than enough water under my resource consent,” Mr Bayley said.

“The 2012/13 drought brought everything to a head, Twyford had lots of water in the catchment, but under the old consenting process we couldn’t get to it, in the end we were limited to the river flows which enforced a total water ban.

“We had to come together to find a workable, sustainable solution. There is still work to be done, but we’ve come along way,” said Mr Bayley.

Senior planner and principal of Cheal consultants Cameron Drury, who developed the global consent framework and resource consent application, said it was a paradigm shift for both irrigator and the regulator and set a positive way forward for other regions.

“It gives the Twyford co-operative the tools and responsibility to manage existing water rights within the limits of the Resource Management Act,” Mr Drury said.

Mr van Beek said more than half the land area is now globalised into the semi- confined zone and he was confident of gaining full uptake after the 2016 harvest season.

ends

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