Dear Hawkes Bay,
You have moved a step closer to drought-proofing a significant area of productive land with the release of a draft decision granting 17 resource consents for the $265 million Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme by the Tukituki Catchment Proposal Board of Inquiry.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has proposed building the dam as a way of alleviating drought problems and boosting the local economy through improved primary production on the Ruataniwha Plains near Waipawa and Waipukurau.
The project would involve the construction an 83-metre-high concrete dam on the Makaroro River to store water for irrigating 25,000 hectares of land across the plains. . .
In its decision the board granted the 17 resource consent applications relating to the dam and water storage scheme, subject to conditions.
It allowed the plan change based on a detailed set of conditions including limits on nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Tukituki catchment. . .
The decision pleases the Iwi:
Irrigation New Zealand says the decision is bold and encouraging:
Chief Executive Andrew Curtis says the decision was welcome news – particularly following the organisation’s biennial conference in Napier earlier this month where benefits of the scheme were discussed and attendees were assured of steps being taken by the industry to protect New Zealand’s water quality. This includes initiatives such as SMART irrigation (www.smartirrigation.co.nz) to ensure smart and sustainable farming is practiced in New Zealand.
“Seeing first-hand the drought that is starting to crush many parts of the North Island we can only conclude that Ruataniwha is not only overdue, but essential if the Hawkes Bay is to survive. Creating and investing in water storage throughout New Zealand needs to continue to be a priority for the Government, particularly on the East Coast, which the recent UN Climate change report confirms will only get drier.”
In response to the EPA’s decision to turn down the Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s proposed ‘single nutrient’, Mr Curtis says this aspect of the decision wasn’t entirely unexpected.
“Phosphorus and nitrogen, along with sediment and riparian stream protection all need to be managed to protect water quality – each aspect is covered through the Farm Environment Plan approach to be implemented as part of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.”
“The EPA’s decision is a positive step to New Zealand unlocking its renewable resources for the benefit of all. It’s now down to the local farming and business communities to get on board – both as investors and also to increase initial uptake,” says Mr Curtis.
Federated Farmers says the scheme has now got to second base:
With the Ruataniwha Water Storage scheme getting the tick from a Board of Inquiry appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the concept of water storage has passed a major milestone but a greater one is to ensure it is financially viable.
“You could say Ruataniwha has now got to second base,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.
“First base was getting Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s leadership to take it forward while second base was the Board of Inquiry.
“Third base will be the scheme’s all-important financing and whether the nutrient limits make it viable for farmers to invest. It also has to be analysed to make sure it still works within the regional plan too.
“If these all stack up then it will be a home run once construction hopefully starts.
“Federated Farmers believes water storage is core economic, cultural, social and environmental infrastructure for a changing climate. . .
My farmer and I were in Hawkes Bay a couple of weeks ago with the Pastoral Management Group. We were briefed on the scheme and taken to the site.
The next day the two of us were asked to speak to farmers at Onga Onga.
My farmer finished his comments with a challenge:
“Go home tonight and think ahead 30 years. What will your grandchildren be saying?
“Will they be thanking you for being visionaries, of will they be saying you were silly old bastards?”
If you don’t grasp the opportunity you’ve got future generations will be thanking you, if you don’t, those who are left will be wondering how you could have been so stupid.
We have seen irrigation transform North Otago.
Ours was the first farm in our valley to get water and during droughts it used to stand out like a blot of green ink on parchment. Now, thanks to the North Otago Irrigation Scheme it’s the few dry paddocks which stand out.
This scheme, like yours, wasn’t cheap.
But drought’s expensive too and it’s not just drought that costs.
Have you every worked out what you lose by having to farm conservatively in the okay and good years because you can’t rely on getting enough rain?
The returns from reliable production in good years and bad more than justify the expense and the financial benefits aren’t confined to farms.
The people who work for us, service and supply us have benefited too, no longer subject to the boom and bust cycles which followed the vagaries of the weather. The wider district and the country are better off because we have water when we need it.
Imagine how much more prosperous towns like Waipukerau would be if you had water when and where you need it.
The benefits aren’t just financial, they’re environmental and social too.
We have fragile soils which blew over from the Waitaki Valley. They used to keep blowing in droughts, now they stay put.
The Waiareka Stream which was little more than a series of stagnant ponds much of the time now flows cleanly all year and native wildlife has re-established in it.
The NOIC scheme was the first to require environmental farm plans from all its shareholders. These are independently audited each year and supply of water is dependent on passing that audit.
Water has brought a social transformation too.
There were four houses on our farm and those of our two closest neighbours before we got water. Now there are 14 and we’re building a 15th.
My farmer and I are the oldest in any of those houses by more than a a decade. Most others are early 30s or younger and several of them are having children.
The average age of the district has plummeted as a result and for the first time since the ag-sag of the 1980s farmers’ adult children are returning home.
Most of the farms which have got water here have converted to dairying. But there is also cropping, most notably a large-scale operation which specialises in bird seed.
The conditions in the resource consent for Ruataniwha might preclude dairying for most of you but your climate gives you the potential for many other land-use options not available to us down here.
You already know what you can grow when the weather favours you. With irrigation you’ll be able to do all that and more whatever the weather.
The Ruataniwha scheme is providing you the opportunity to do something not just for yourselves but for your province and for the future.
Don’t let this chance go by, Hawkes Bay.
Your grandchildren are depending on you.