News that development work on the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme has been halted should be deeply troubling to every resident of Wairarapa, the region’s Federated Farmers President David Hayes says.
“Water storage is critical to the future of our towns and rural hinterland, to employment, production and the health of our rivers and wider environment.”
The Wakamoekau scheme was seen as a foundation block of the Wairarapa Water Resilience Strategy.
“It’s highly concerning we have stumbled at the first step,” David said.
“I grew up in South Australia – the driest state on the driest continent. I’ve seen how severe water shortages undercut so many aspects of life.
“The Wairarapa must not underestimate the shock that climate change-accelerated lack of water will mean to our Wairarapa communities and to the environment. It is time to act!
“The strategy launched earlier this year and led by Dame Margaret Bazley was clear that it needed to be fully implemented if we are to address the impacts of climate change. We cannot pick and choose.”
Wairarapa Water Ltd should be congratulated for the work it put in on the Wakamoekau scheme. It highlighted how capturing water at times of high flow and storing it for summer and autumn dry periods can help maintain river levels above minimum flows and provide desperately needed water to the community, industry and farming.
“Storage is the only practical initiative for resilience going forward. Really, the only strand of the Wairarapa Water Resiliene Strategy that was being actively worked on was the Wakamoekau scheme. With that halted, we have nothing on the table but we still have a solid set of recommendations in the strategy that now need to be properly resourced and managed,” David said.
The environmental planning framework is complex and changing rapidly, and this decision by Wairarapa Water Ltd underlines the fact that planning framework is not yet fit for purpose.
“It is creating barriers that are preventing sound management of the most important issue facing our rural and urban communities.
“We can all continue to be more efficient with water use but that’s not going to be enough for the future of towns and farms,” David said.
It is very likely that farmland will be seen as more valuable subdivided for housing and precious production space with shrink.. Over time much of the region will evolve into a suburb of Wellington, with ongoing water supply challenges and impacts for our rivers and catchments.
“What we value about the region we call home will be lost.
“Federated Farmers wants to to see the consequences of climate change on our rivers and communities properly mitigated through implementing a full range of practical initiatives, including storage. This needs strong leadership, sound governance and must be well resourced.”