Tranch 2 Applicant - Plantation Road Dairies

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.

Details on the proposal can be found here.

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.

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  1. CHB is essentially dry land farming and chucking water at it in excess is a farce. A small group of landowners/investors want the water and to hell with everybody else. The situation hasn’t changed – there’s only so much water and the same group still want most of it for themselves – exactly as before. The best solution is to reduce the water take and maybe they’ll give up their insatiable demands for more and more water to keep them going.

  2. I agree with Grant Nicholson. The same few proponents keep popping up, seeking increased water takes from a reducing source. As unpalatable as it maybe, an experimental replenishment system of any nature cannot redress this basic issue. It’s not a question of “enough already”, but “too much already”.

  3. Ho hum, here we go again…take 2. Despite Mike Petersen’s protestations that this time it’s not about the same thing as RWSS v1, it doesn’t take much digging to discover that it’s is essence exactly the same, for the same reasons. Just the excuses and spin have changed. Whichever way he and his team spin this, the truth is quite clear – environmentally it will be a disaster, and any so-called “environmental benefits” from building the dam will be vastly outweighed by environmental harm. Mike is clearly on the wrong side of history this time – the world is moving away from “think-big” schemes of this nature, and there are numerous alternatives to dams which Mike has conveniently omitted to mention. End of story…

  4. With dairy products reaching record prices and subsequent high farmer payouts, of course agribusiness will want to profit, conveniently forgetting that they achieve this on the back of a common good-water-which belongs to all in Aotearoa. And let’s not even mention the costs at the other end, nitrate pollution is a good place to start.

  5. The planet needs to learn to live within its means. This includes groundwater forecasts.
    CHB needs to change its farming practices to take global warming into considerations.
    The rest of the province should not be paying for your selfishness!

  6. Have any of you actually read the full reports by HBRIC from about 2010 to
    about 2018 ,read Tom Skirman’s report to HBRC Corporate and Strategic Committee on Sept 2 , 2020 or read the report by Mike Petersens crew published last week ? If you have , could you provide some rational rebuttal to the arguments they espouse in favour of large scale water storage and its environmental, social and economic benefits to the whole region ? Please try to suggest a viable thoughtful alternative solution .

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