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Swimming against the tide

CAPTION: A view from the top of Black Creek Valley near Masterton taken in 2013 PHOTO/FILE

By Beckie Wilson

[email protected]

An environmental group has started an online petition demanding the regional council stops using ratepayers’ money to fund the controversial Wairarapa Water project.

Greater Wellington Regional Council has spent $3.7m on the project since July 2011.

Now, it is discussing its future involvement in the project as current funding is due stop at the end of the next financial year.

The petition gained more than 190 signatures last week.

Jade Waters, chair of Te Patukituki o Wairarapa — of which lobbyists Nga Kaitiaki o Wairarapa are a sub-committee for running the petition — said the regional council was not thinking about the people in Wairarapa and the future generations.

The waterways would only get worse if the scheme went ahead, so “we should not be supporting the damming of our waters”.

“The salient fact here is that the storing of water is going to be used to intensify agriculture — I know they say that’s not the case,” Ms Waters said.

Water Wairarapa’s proposed scheme involves building a dam at either Black Creek near Kaituna, or Tividale near Masterton.

Water would be stored and used for a range of options across the region, including the irrigation of up to 30,000ha, supplementing town water supplies and stock drinking water.

Water Wairarapa was established in 2010 by GWRC, and is funded by the regional council and government.

The petition says the council should be spending ratepayers’ money on cleaning rivers — not polluting them further by subsiding irrigation schemes.

“That’s the main concern here: you store the water, you use the water on the land, then put more stock on the land and then there’s more effluent run off into the rivers, and more nitration etcetera leaking through the soils and getting into our waterways.”

“They say they need to store it for when its dry, but the fact is because of the cost of building dams they need to recoup that money someway.”

Ms Waters hopes that the petition will raise awareness within the community about the negative effects of the project.

“Who knows what we will have to do if the council progress the proposal any further — we are hoping common sense will prevail.”

Regional council Environment Group manager Nigel Corry said the council had always been aware of Wairarapa’s strong interest around the water storage project.

“That is why we are taking a cautious approach to the investigations and any decisions about what might happen in the future,” he said.

The regional council’s use of ratepayers’ money has covered a broad range of work including feasibility studies, financial assessments, and engagement with communities and local councils around the potential sites of the project.

“The council will have to make a decision if they want to fund past 2018, and if they do then that will be part of a consultation package in the annual plan,” Mr Corry said.

Councillors have heard from those for and against the project in the past, and would take the petition into consideration as it planned its future involvement, he said.

Wairarapa Water project director Michael Bassett-Foss said GWRC was one of the biggest funding contributors to the project, along with the central government.

“The council will, as it has done a number of times through the project, assesses what sort of support it will give the project,” he said.

“It’s not just funding, it’s in other ways as well. A project like this is tied in with the wider management of water resources in the region.”

Wairarapa regional councillor Adrienne Staples said all questions around funding of the irrigation scheme were currently being worked through.

“They are very welcome to deliver us the petition, and all I say is that councillors will give the petition due consideration through the funding process — no decisions have been made at this stage,” she said.

To sign the petition, click on the link: https://www.toko.org.nz/petitions/save-te-waikoropupu-springs-greater-wellington-regional-council



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