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Hearing told of water race’s many roles

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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The emotional and ecological role the Opaki water race plays for its neighbourhood users were put to a Masterton District Council committee yesterday [Wednesday September 2].

Councillors heard from eight of 66 submitters on the authority’s proposal to shut down the network after a century of supplying water for stock.

The water race supplies more than 50 users through a network of more than 25km of channels, dug through the countryside northwest of Masterton in the early 1900s.

A 15-year Greater Wellington Regional Council consent to divert water from the Ruamahanga River expired in December 2018.

MDC’s proposal cited increased costs for changing regulatory environment and community expectations in signalling its intent to shut down the flow.

In February, MDC sought to recommend the closure due to the cost and complexity of future consents.

Fish and Game [F&G], the national angling and hunting lobby group, stifled the attempt to renew the consent, recommending that it sought to “protect the fishery and wider ecological health”.

Most speakers to the hearings committee at MDC’s Waiata House chambers said they supported a user group’s proposal for a “transition pathway” from the water race to the proposed Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme.

A decision on construction of the storage scheme is due within two years, and it is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

Several submitters spoke of a neighbourhood water system which homed a bountiful ecosystem, provided respite, and added to the natural beauty of the area.

Nicky Geary, of Opaki’s Le Gra vineyard, said the waterway had been a place of healing of her daughter, Orlaith.

Orlaith lives with a rare medical condition, tuberous sclerosis.

Her mother said the family knows the race as “her water”, and said it was one of the main attractions of the family settling in the Opaki area.

“Te mana o te wai. The power of this water is more than just local GDP, and people’s livelihoods. It’s flora and fauna has helped restore our little girl when she needed it most.

“And it’s important for you to understand that although we support the submission, we are putting a lot aside to support the submission.”

Others raised the race’s role in supplying easy access for water in the event of fire.

David Woodhouse noted a February 2019 blaze, when the local brigade used the race to quell the flames.

The committee, chaired by Frazer Mailman and including six other councillors, will meet on Wednesday September 30 to deliberate on the decision.

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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