Ron Mark announces the $800,000 funding package from the Provincial Growth Fund for a water storage feasibility study. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Gianina Schwanecke

The language used in last week’s Provincial Growth Fund announcement about water storage emphasised the benefit of the potential scheme to all residents – not just farmers.

The main benefit offered to the Wairarapa community was greater resilience in the facing of changing climate patterns and water supply surety.

As a former Carterton mayor, Ron Mark said he understood how important infrastructure issues were to the provinces.

He said they were no longer talking about irrigation, but water storage.

“Water supply in this region has become unpredictable and challenging over the summer months.

“We are helping lift the economy of Wairarapa through water storage.”

Community involvement would be key, he said.

Other potential gains given included recreational activities such as boating and swimming.

“It’s absolutely essential we are to get movement in the provinces and regions.”

Carterton Mayor John Booth echoed Mark’s sentiments and said those involved in the project were looking to grow wealth across all sectors.

“As a farmer myself, I know first-hand the value of water and unlocking [it’s potential] will transform our land,” he said.

Based on experiences in other parts of New Zealand, Wairarapa Water Ltd chairman Tim Lusk said significant water storage infrastructure would have land use “start to change as farmers look to invest in higher-value crops”.

Federated Farmers arable chairwoman Karen Williams said the expansion of the kiwifruit industry into Hawke’s Bay meant there was potential for Wairarapa arable and horticultural producers to move into the processed vegetable market.

She said it was “exciting to see the Government supporting provincial New Zealand” but recognised the opportunities for others in the region to benefit from the scheme.

South Wairarapa dairy farmer Leo Vollebregt said it was “great news” for Wairarapa.

He said it was important for the region to become more resilient in the face of growing water pressures and to start the work now.

“Community scale storage takes time to construct properly and so needs early action.

“In nine years’ time, we are going to be facing far greater water restrictions.”

Vollebregt said it was good to see that central government was serious about solutions to the lack of water surety and reliability.