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Mood swings towards water storage

Bob Francis. PHOTO/FILE

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Attitudes towards large-scale water storage have changed dramatically in light of the predicted climate change effects and proposed restrictions, Water Wairarapa Governance Group chairman Bob Francis believes.

The group was set up in 2010 to investigate options for more reliable sources of water.

In the past year, Mr Francis said, Wairarapa’s three district councils had shown more interest in the project as a solution for urban water supplies.

This is in addition to commercial water users and farmers, who see the importance of storage.

“The respective towns, with their water storage, and also recognising their other infrastructure around recreational facilities like Henley Lake, I think all of that is emerging as a real issue,” Mr Francis said.

Water Wairarapa is seeking funding from a range of sources.

The three district councils have allocated $35,000 between them for the next financial year, with $200,000 set aside by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, he said.

At the moment, Water Wairarapa is looking for $85,000 from commercial water users to fund research, and forming a plan, around the effects of climate change and the impacts of whaitua water allocations.

In September, they will be seeking financial support from farmers with the goal of $500,000.

“Collectively, we are starting to get a good pool of money which will allow us to make good progress,” he said.

The change in conversation among water users, residents and councils had been driven by many factors.

“It’s been driven a lot by the Ruamahanga Whaitua Committee. If you add the climate change predictions, which are real, and I think more believed by the majority of the community – that is significant.”

Water Wairarapa project director Michael Bassett-Foss said the project had always been a “multi-use” concept.

“We have been talking for some years about the ability of water storage to support urban water and industries, and lakes.

“It does make sense to store water when there is lots of it, and use it when there is not enough,” he said.

Mr Bassett-Foss said he would look at working with the district’s three councils on making a bid to the Provincial Growth Fund.

South Wairarapa District Council chief executive Paul Crimp said the council had allocated $20,000 for the 2018/19 year, a decision which is yet to be approved.

“Certainly climate change and pressure on water takes will place pressures on available water. Large water storage is one way to counter some of these changes.”

Carterton District Council chief executive Jane Davis said the council had also set aside $20,000 over the same time frame.

“Part of the reason we are funding next year’s work is to test the need for a storage facility, which might be one big dam or maybe smaller ones,” she said.

Masterton District Council chief executive Pim Borren said the council had allocated $15,000 in its draft long-term plan.

“Masterton District Council recognises the need for continued investigation around how we can get water surety in the future. We are not committed to any current proposed solution, but we are committed to helping find a solution.”

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