FILE/PHOTO

MP says councils need to support dam construction

ELISA VORSTER
elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

A closed-door meeting about Wairarapa’s water woes has been hailed as the first step towards creating more certainty for key businesses.

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said businesses such as Juken New Zealand had indicated to him during informal chats this week that relocating their businesses was one possibility without a reliable supply of water.

Scott’s visit was prompted by an invite-only meeting last week at the Carterton Events Centre to discuss the region’s future water needs.

Around 40 leaders from a cross-section of Wairarapa industries attended, including leaders from Juken New Zealand Limited, Kintyre Meats Limited, Breadcraft Wairarapa, Premier Beehive, as well as representatives from Greater Wellington Regional Council, Masterton, Carterton, and South Wairarapa district councils.

But New Zealand general manager for JNL Dave Hilliard said the company was “committed to the region and has no plans to move”.

“The company is working with all stakeholders on water issues.”

Carterton Mayor John Booth was one of the 12 presenters at the meeting which was convened by Wairarapa Water Users Inc members, Leo Vollebregt and David Holmes.

The water users group is made up of farmers, business people and community leaders who speak on behalf of the major water users in Wairarapa and aims to address the shortfalls businesses and communities face with issues such as
climate change.

Vollebregt said the meeting was called so they could identify water-use needs and opportunities, with a view to developing a comprehensive community dialogue on water needs and supply in the region.

“We discussed what reliability means to businesses and it appears it means different things to different people,” Vollebregt said.

“The main feeling is water is critical in Wairarapa to communities and industry leaders.”

Holmes said the message of the meeting was loud and clear.

“There is definitely a shortage of water in Wairarapa and the meeting highlighted how serious it is,” he said.

“If we want businesses to come here or stay here, we need security.”

National’s Scott said the way forward was for local councils to support the construction of a storage dam, so business owners would feel confident investing millions into expanding their businesses within the region.

“Water is liquid gold,” Scott said.

“We need to look after it and store it otherwise businesses leave, people leave, schools close down and we’re back to the days of a shrinking economy.”

Breadcraft Wairarapa chief executive officer Phil Holden said while its operation was relatively comfortable with the current water supply, it was important for all water users across Wairarapa to think about the future.

He acknowledged a reliable source of water was key for all businesses and industries, regardless of size.

“There are some key ingredients for making bread – one is flour and the other one is water.

“Without water, there’s no bread.”

He said water security was something which impacts all users, not just businesses.

Vollebregt said there were a suite of options for the region to consider, both natural and constructed, relating to all aspects such as river flows, water storage and efficiency measures.

“We need to figure out what sort of body is going to run it – it may be a new body altogether.”

He said whichever option is pursued will take into account both the small size of the region and its large productivity.

“We’re a diverse region, it’s not just a monoculture.”

Vollebregt said the next step was to continue having discussions and forums to see what people in the wider community think.

What do you think? Letters to the editor: editor@age.co.nz