Regional Economic Development Parliamentary Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau announcing the funding at the Carterton Events Centre on Wednesday. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND

But Government’s $7m gift only a drop in ocean
Water project long overdue, says Mark

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

A large reservoir north of Masterton is one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to $7.11 million from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

Regional Economic Development Parliamentary Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau announced the funding at the Carterton Events Centre on Wednesday to a room of around 50 people including Wairarapa MPs, iwi, the district’s three mayors and Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy Governance Group chairwoman Dame Margaret Bazley.

The $7.11 million investment in Wairarapa Water Limited is for the pre-construction development of water storage [and associated distribution] infrastructure at the Wakamoekau site in Wairarapa.

The site location of the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme reservoir. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The aim will be to build a reservoir holding 18 million cubic metres of water and capable of irrigating 10,000ha.

If funding is secured construction is planned to begin in 2023, with a target of being able to provide water by 2026.

“Once finished, this project will provide a resilient fresh water supply for the area leading to many benefits such as providing support to sustainable agriculture and horticulture industries and help fill domestic demand for fresh water during dry seasons,” Tabuteau said.

Wairarapa Water Limited chief executive Robyn Wells said the announcement builds on the momentum of the project.

“The indicative numbers that we had are about $100 million-$120 million for the reservoir and then there’s development costs on top of that of which the $7 million is a large part of the development cost.”

Henley Lake might also benefit from the dam, Wells said.

“Certainly, the preliminary design is that we’d be able to supply some water to help supplement Henley Lake and, because it’s linked to the rivers and because we’re releasing environmental flows into the rivers, that could put flows into the lake as well.”

The “environmental flows” include releasing water into rivers during dry periods, and there was also potential to release “flushing flows” down the river to clear out algae.

An additional $110,000 will go to the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency Ltd led by the Wairarapa Water Resilience Committee to develop and produce a Wairarapa Water Resilience Strategy.

Wairarapa Federated Farmers president William Beetham said the reservoir project stemmed from “a realisation that if we don’t have improved water supply, some of our biggest companies and employers are under threat going forward”.

“There is no rural/urban divide in this case. And credit to the government for listening to the science and the strong business case.”

Wairarapa-based Cabinet minister Ron Mark said the project was “long overdue”.

“Everybody understands the significance of the water problem we face and the importance of resolving it and this announcement today is just gold for us.

“If we don’t get serious about how we manage our water, how we use our water, towns such as Masterton will struggle, they’ll struggle to meet the needs of their ratepayers, their citizens.”

Mark said the development would give some certainty to business, and developers building new homes and developing new subdivisions, that there would be water available.