Nothing like water access to set off hot debate in Hawke’s Bay.
Three issues now simmering in CHB will hit the boil in 2022.
Tranch 2 irrigation permits. Nine consent applications for additional groundwater takes totaling 15 million cubes from the Ruataniwha aquifer are now on the table, with submissions now closed.
The Commission that dealt with the Ruataniwha dam and the Tukituki Plan Change 6 pulled this shocking amount of water out the magician’s hat, to the surprise of all players at the time. The CHB groundwater is plainly over-allocated.
Nevertheless, the applicants – a number of them dairying operations – jumped on the opportunity to get new water to irrigate 2,681 hectares. And the Regional Council, which opposed the Commission on this at the time, is required by law to hear those consents. As HBRC has a conflict as a regulator in the matter, the consents will actually be adjudged by an independent panel. Hard to imagine HBRC, providing expert advice, will reverse ground and discover there’s 15m cubes of water available after all!
Managed aquifer recharge (MAR). This is a major CHB experiment to test the proposition that surface water can be captured at times of high flow and then either be pumped directly into the aquifer or soaked in through ponds/wetlands created for that purpose.
HBRC is fully behind this project, which requires independent consenting. BayBuzz has examined it in detail here. Some environmentalists and Maori question the approach, seeing it as a Band-Aid to cover the underlying problem, which is excessive use of water for commercial benefit, and worrying that the nature and quality of the aquifer water will be adversely affected.
Irrigators are also divided, with proponents of above-ground water storage, while smiling congenially, seeing MAR as a distraction from their grander plan, to …
Build Dam 2. This is the scheme fronted by CHB farmer (and esteemed former NZ ag trade ambassador) Mike Peterson to bring back the Ruataniwha dam (Dam 1). Although ‘better dressed’, this is still at its core the same proposition – build a dam on the Makaroro River capable of storing 100m cubes of water behind it, flooding a chunk of conservation land presently protected by Supreme Court decision.
In the May/June 2014 BayBuzz magazine, I wrote an article on Dam 1 titled ‘Only 25 Dam Questions Left’. Most were poorly or never answered, and Dam 1 collapsed after $20m of ratepayer paid foundation work. Can a new team put a fresh, convincing face on Dam 2? We’ll see in the coming year. BayBuzz will be asking questions.
Add these three proposals together and you have a huge boiling cauldron of water issues on the burner for 2022.