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Water storage: Consents sink scheme

The scheme which proposed to store water in a reservoir northwest of Masterton has been abandoned due to resource consent issues. PHOTOS/FILE

WWL will likely be dissolved

After years of debate, the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme has been canned.

Wairarapa Water Ltd announced on Friday development of the water storage scheme had ceased, citing resource consent troubles.

The scheme was granted $7 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to develop its water storage pre-construction phase in early 2020.

The PGF also gave $110,000 to develop the Water Resilience Strategy, which was progressed by the Wairarapa Economic Development governance group and key stakeholders.

WWL chairman Tim Lusk said about $5m of the $7m allocated to the project had already been spent, and the remainder would stay in the hands of the government.

He said it was advised in July 2019 that the scheme was “eminently consentable”.

Lusk said environmental planning had changed rapidly since then, making the scheme extremely challenging to consent through Greater Wellington Regional Council.

“The time and cost consequences meant that further development is not viable at this time,” WWL said.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said the scheme would have brought many benefits to the region.

“I’m gutted for those that will miss out – our producers, manufacturers and also our towns, given how this scheme would have supplied them with water as well.”

He said he also felt for those who had worked on the project, especially previous Masterton mayor Bob Francis, who had been involved for decades.

The scheme proposed taking water from the Waingawa River and the Wakamoekau Creek in high winter flows.

The water would then be stored in a 20 million cubic metre storage reservoir northwest of Masterton for release in the summer months.

Lusk said the decision would be very disappointing and deeply concerning to many who had worked closely with WWL over the past three years.

“Climate change is already impacting our communities and scale solutions need to be identified and implemented with some speed.

“All effort must now go to translating the recently adopted Wairarapa Water Resilience Strategy into a convincing action plan. Environmental planning frameworks and funding must be aligned to support the strategy.”

Lusk said he was certain someone would pick the project up again, once the policy settings were right.

He said the scheme’s benefits included putting the health of the waterways first, allocations for iwi aspirations, and bolstering the water supply to urban, industrial, and farming users.

Lusk said the scheme had been expected to become a foundation building block in the Wairarapa Water Resilience Strategy and be central to accelerating land-use change as a significant climate change response.

Lusk said WWL wanted to assure the community the substantial development work completed by the project team could be taken forward when conditions allowed.

“It is very hard to imagine a comprehensive climate change solution in Wairarapa without community water storage,” he said.

Lusk said Wairarapa Water Ltd had no purpose outside of the storage project, so it was likely it would be dissolved. The board was yet to meet to decide the fate of the company.

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