Construction could begin as early as this year on a water storage facility in drought-stricken Northland following studies which have identified some promising sites, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.
Up to $30 million has been provided through the Provincial Growth Fund for Far North, Mid-North and Kaipara to investigate potential water storage sites in the regions.
That work had been completed and a number of sites had been identified near Kaikohe and in Kaipara, Shane Jones said.
“An initial site near Kaikohe has been identified and, depending on post-COVID-19 timeframes, construction is expected to be underway there over next summer. Further sites will be explored as the project evolves.”
The plan is to build a series of small-scale reservoirs and create a distribution pipeline.
“There is strong interest in this project from the wider primary sector, and belief that there is significant potential to grow high-value horticulture in the region if more water was available. In the Mid-North, there are clusters of existing landowners eager to advance water storage and distribution opportunities. Strong support has also been expressed by landowners in Kaipara,” Shane Jones said.
Further engagement with potential water users will be done when lockdown restrictions allow.
“I am keen to have local farmers and landowners involved in the development from here and interested in hearing from people who want to be involved,” Shane Jones said.
The frequency and severity of droughts are expected to increase with climate change and having a reliable water supply that takes water during the wet months and stores it, will become increasingly important to provide resilience and support small rural economies.
A key focus has been to ensure the project will deliver opportunities for Māori landowners to develop their land through the delivery of a secure water source. There are also real opportunities to address municipal water supply issues.
Both scheme areas include potential storage sites close to their respective urban centres. Kaipara and Far North District council are investigating how their municipal water supply systems will need to be reconfigured to take additional water, and how to fund this work through their forthcoming Long Term Plans.
In February, Shane Jones and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters announced up to $12.7 million to make Northland more resilient in the face of extreme weather. They made the announcement in Dargaville, which along with large parts of Northland, has been in the grip of drought.
That funding came on top of up to $18.5m from the PGF to Northland Regional Council to progress water storage projects
“Water is critical for Northland’s economy and wellbeing. It will be even more so now that our regional economies are in recovery mode from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Shane Jones said.
“It is also clear that climate change is having an impact. Security of water supply will open up new markets, create jobs and provide new opportunities for Northland.