Opportunity to manage freshwater better

Friday 15 March, 2024

Council is updating the Waipaoa Catchment Plan and Regional Freshwater section of the Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan. An important part of this work is to assess whether the current policy and rules around water allocation are fit for purpose.

Council’s Director for Sustainable Futures Joanna Noble says this is an opportunity to manage freshwater better.

“It’s challenging to manage water so that waterways are healthy as well as ensuring there’s enough water for community use, stock and food production.

“Our water supply is under pressure.  We have depleted aquifers and in dry years, we experience low river levels in the summer.

“Population growth and development are likely to increase demand for freshwater. Climate change will mean there is less water available at certain times of the year.

“We need to plan now for water resilience – taking into account climate change and economic and population growth demands.”

As part of this work, Council commissioned two technical reports to help inform discussions about ground and surface water allocation on the Tūranga Poverty Bay Flats.

One report focuses on how different river flows in the Te Arai and Waipaoa rivers can protect the health of those rivers and their ecosystems.

The second summarises the groundwater modelling for aquifers in the Tūranga Flats showing a decline in the groundwater levels in two of those aquifers – the Makauri and Matokitoki aquifers.

Summaries of these reports will be presented at a Council meeting this week.

Any proposed changes to the way water is allocated and managed will be implemented via changes to the Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan (TRMP).

“Discussion and engagement with tangata whenua, stakeholders and the wider community is critical to ensure those views and knowledge is considered as part of freshwater planning.

“We understand the importance of farming and agriculture in Tairāwhiti’s economy.

“How we strike a balance between economic prosperity and freshwater management that upholds the mauri and ora of waterways is the big challenge.”

Ms Noble stresses the need for collaborative efforts to set appropriate limits.

“The issue will be a focus of the regional Freshwater Advisory Group in 2024, and Council will be engaging with tangata whenua, communities and stakeholders throughout the year.”

More information and details for community hui will be made available on the Regional Freshwater Plan Review web page.