Last week, Hawke’s Bay Today carried a rousing piece in which Rod McDonald, chairperson of Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers urged land-scarce Marlborough winegrowers to bring their vines to Hawke’s Bay. Apparently there’s a dearth of premium grape-growing land down south.

Said McDonald: “There’s always pressure on the really good grape-growing land but Hawke’s Bay is a big place.”

Normally we’d applaud local boosterism.

Unfortunately, in an article immediately above the Marlborough invitation, HBT reported that the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council was wrestling with water allocation issues.

It seems we might have the land, but not the water.

According to HBRC staff, water allocation policies developed in the mid-90s might no longer be valid. Science dealing with water degradation and water usage has advanced, requiring fresh examination of allocation policies.

In the specific case at hand, withdrawal rates from the Karamu Stream must be re-assessed. HBRC’s Darryl Lew said: “Council staff now consider the allocation volumes for the Karamu catchment require review.” He noted that if allocation volumes were revised, some users would receive reduced allocations, or none at all. Sixty-eight water permits for water from the Karamu system require processing by October 31.

Several major vineyards in the region receive water allocations from the catchment.

Duh! It would appear that Mr. McDonald should meet Mr. Lew before he invites too many new grape-growers to the region!

Aren’t all of our planning processes supposed to identify and address resource constraint issues like these? Do private sector businesspeople pay any attention to the official planning process? We wonder.

Meanwhile, about 90 water consents on the Tukituki catchment, all of which expired in 2004 (!!), await renewal. In the face of allocation uncertainty, the HBRC environmental management committee has simply recommended rolling all of them over for five years.

And the band played on.

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