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Contentious water race’s future up for debate

Opaki Water Race. The century-old network has been earmarked for closure by the local Masterton District Council. PHOTO/MASTERTON DISTRICT COUNCIL


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Users of the Opaki water race near Masterton say it is inefficient but they are dependent on the network for stock supply.

A hearing on the closure of the century-old stock waterway will hear arguments for and against its retention at Masterton District Council’s chambers tomorrow [Wednesday September 2].

Supporters rallying for keeping the race open said it was inefficient but its user’s group wants a transitional approach to its closure.

A submission by the committee of the user’s group, signed by Brian Geary, Barry Gleeson, and David Woodhouse, calls for a short term extension to the resource consent with Greater Wellington Regional Council.

A five-year consent would cover the time until the proposed Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme may be operational.

The committee, representatives of 53 of the race’s users said the race was “an inefficient mechanism to reticulate water, given the ever-increasing pressure on the available water resource in the Wairarapa”.

“The critical point is that almost every user is currently dependent upon the Water Race, and should it be closed [or a water right not granted], these users must have an alternative water source,” it said.

The committee suggests four alternatives – joining the Opaki Water Supply Association, installing their own wells, buying water from the proposed Wakamoekau scheme, or a standalone medium-term option for bulk supply.

It recommends the Wakamoekau option, which was set to have a go/no go decision made by 2022, and if construction does start, was scheduled to be open by 2026.

Race user Tim Penn, who favours immediate closure, was also scheduled to speak.

In his submission, he said the race was “already uneconomic for our 61ha lot”.

Any resource consent application filed by the council on behalf of users, by the council’s estimations as mentioned in their brochure, may double rates to $6000 per annum and at worst would go to $9000 per annum plus the maintenance costs, he said.

Penn said this was too much for stock drinking water only.

“The question then must be asked, should a 61ha block pay $6000 a year in water rates for stock drinking water that is not available during those times when livestock are most reliant on it?

“We therefore ask that the council close the water race as soon as possible.”

The committee will be chaired by councillor Frazer Mailman and include councillors David Holmes, Tina Nixon, Chris Peterson, and Sandy Ryan, and Mayor Lyn Patterson

It will also hear from representatives of Matahiwi Vineyard, owned by outgoing Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott.

Later tomorrow, users of South Wairarapa’s water races will discuss another short-term consent.

A council subcommittee will consider the Longwood race, a 40km route which services 1500ha of farmland from the Tauherenikau River near Featherston,

SWDC has sent additional information for its application to the regional authority on the Longwood consent, with a view to aligning its timing with the consent of the nearby Moroa race, which runs through Greytown.

“This short term consent will also allow SWDC to further canvas property owners with sections of water race within their property in order to establish whether or not they have a place in modern agriculture,” a report to the committee said.

The Opaki meeting begins at Waiata House, Masterton, at 10am. The SWDC committee meets at Featherston’s Kiwi Hall at 6.30pm.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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