Ron Mark makes the PGF announcement at the Carterton Events Centre. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Ruamahanga storage dam idea gets $800,000

STAFF REPORTERS

Wairarapa Water Ltdis getting $800,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund to update and push forward work on the idea of a dam and lake for water storage, northwest of Masterton on the Ruamahanga River.

Former Carterton mayor and current government minister Ron Mark was the right person to announce the funding at the Carterton Events Centre on Friday as he knew the more than 30-year history of planning for water storage in the region and the benefits promised.

“Some of us believe the market needs a hand,” he said.

The project is now being pitched as a community effort, with councils and iwi on board, rather than a grab for water resources by irrigators, though Mark made the point that agriculture is Wairarapa’s backbone.

In the written announcement, Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau used apples rather than dairying to illustrate what is at stake.

“Research has shown that in the next 25 years an additional 1000 hectares of apples can expect to generate 1300 more jobs and $81 million a year in GDP for the region.

“To make this happen, a reliable water supply will be needed. This project has the potential to provide up to 18 million cubic litres of stored water for the region to be used in a time of need.”

PGF’s “investment” will go to WWL to support a review and update of a 2015 pre-feasibility study which investigated six potential water schemes in the region, of which the Wakamoekau water storage option was found most favourable.

The private group is focusing on storage at Wakamoekau, which was a component of the original Black Creek water storage plan.

It will also align the study to climate change projections and government policies regarding small-scale water storage schemes for communities.

Tabuteau says a reliable water supply would also enable increased land diversification to higher value, less resource intensive horticulture and agriculture, attract new industries to the region, supplement domestic water supply, and mitigate the impacts of drought.

WWL is a private company chaired by Martinborough-based former Meridian boss Tim Lusk.

Lusk is indicating an $80m to $100m project. It was too early to say who will invest, though farmers would be among them.

Mark said people always think of farmers sucking water up and putting it on their paddocks but the pansies in Masterton also needed watering.

“This is not just about water for farmers,” Mark said. “It is about water for all people in Wairarapa.

“We are going to make Wairarapa hum.”

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson praised the work former mayor Bob Francis did on water storage, saying he was the one with “fire in his belly” and had pushed the idea since inception.

She said her council was also playing an important role in leading water conservation while being part of the conversation about storage.

South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier said work over a long time on water storage plans in Wairarapa had evolved “into community water storage rather than just an irrigation project” and this would be key to
selling the idea.

Lusk says the storage will be part of wider work on a water resilience strategy.

The Times-Age understands there is a reasonable chance of it getting $6m to $7m more from PGF down the line.

Labour List MP Kieran McAnulty says this is the right thing for the region.

“It has evolved from simply a scheme that seemed to benefit farmers to a scheme that is going to benefit everyone in the region through security of supply in water but also security and confidence in terms of investing in economic development.”

Napier said this was the first of more announcements to come from the PGF.

The Times-Age understands there are six applications with a good chance of getting funding.