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Northland: Free Water Tanks Build Resilience For Remote Rural Communities

Almost 100 free new water tanks have changed lives and built drought resilience for vulnerable isolated rural communities in Northland.

The new tanks have been installed in response to the region’s 2019/2020 drought which exposed significant water poverty across Te Taitokerau in vulnerable rural communities without access to public water supply. This resulted in the New Zealand Army being brought in to deliver water to communities without town water supply.

The 100 tanks that have lifted people out of water poverty have been installed since March 2023 to provide on-site healthy drinking and general household water for homes and marae including from Ahipara, Kaihu, Kaikohe, Takou Bay, Taupo Bay, Tangiteroria, Waima and Utakura.

Water tanks for 100 isolated rural marae and homes such as this dwelling are building drought resilience for Northland. Photo supplied via Local Democracy Reporting.

Northland Civil Defence Te Kahu o Taonui (Northland Iwi Chairs Forum) representative and project lead Hone Dalton said the water tanks were about effecting positive changes for the community. Their installation had changed lives.

Dalton outlined the project to a record almost 300 people who attended the fourteenth annual Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Forum, held in Whangārei recently.

The 100 tanks were provided through the Northland Regional Council (NRC) water resilience project and Te Puni Kōkiri kainga rua marae emergency water storage project.

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Several hundred other tanks have also been installed across the region by a variety of other additional providers since 2021.

Dalton said each recipient in his project is provided with a tank of between 8000 and 17,000 litres and an external lockable waterproof pumping cabinet with water pump and ultra –violet filter. On-site training is provided and a one month call back service is offered.

Free water tanks such as this one at the remote east coast coastal settlement of Takou Bay are building drought resilience for Northland's impoverished vulnerable rural communities one supply at a time. Photo supplied via Local Democracy Reporting.

He said many people in remote rural valleys around areas such as Kaikohe were travelling into the town to do their washing, evidenced by the number of laundromats in the town.

NRC’s website said the project had prioritised the most vulnerable Northland communities without access to the water basic living needs on a daily basis - a necessity that many people took for granted.

It said the climate crisis was this generation’s biggest challenge and was already an issue in Te Taitokerau.

There were predictions of on average a hotter, drier Northland with more extreme events to come.

It said the project had worked towards ensuring communities had enough water to get through challenging times of this type.

Water challenges for affected residents had previously meant facing daily considerations about how best to use limited water over the summer months.

“For some it’s the constant checking of an unfit tank or water source and the ongoing worry and stress of how to provide freshwater for whanau but sadly for many it has become a way of life,” the NRC website said.

The website said the project used a model that relied on ‘trusted community champions’ to help identify those most in need of water tanks – a system that worked well for the community.

It said the project had enabled hapū to devise their own hapori (community)-led solutions to get water infrastructure to where it was most needed.

Project manager Hone Dalton with fund recipent Tina Broomfield and right-hand man Phil Young
Kaikohe’s Tina Broomfield (SUBS: correct) with her new tank and water resilience project leader Hone Dalton (left) plus project operations manager Phil Young (right). Photo supplied Northland Regional Council.

It had provided water tanks of sufficient size, water pumps and filtration systems to comply with drinking water standards, and in some cases the infrastructure such as guttering so that rainwater could be collected on site, the website said.

Dalton outlined to those at the forum the often significant challenges involved in bringing the project to life.

These included whether the dwellings being served were consented and considerations around connected water tank provision meeting new drinking water supply quality standards for national water services regulator Taumata Arowai.

Dalton said those involved in the provision of the water tanks had to approach recipients and their communities with the right attitude.

This was because there was sometimes a sense of whakamā (shame) about having a need for the water tanks.

Dalton said future project improvement opportunities included developing criteria to assess who should get the tanks. Another was consideration of discounted scaled partial payment for recipients of between 10 and 50 per cent depending on their circumstances.

There was also opportunity for NRC, Te Puni Kōkiri and Health New Zealand: Te Whatu Ora funding to be combined.

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