A brilliant special report — Water: Under Pressure — in the 19 March edition of the respected journal Nature observes:

“The water shortage that threatens humanity will have wide-ranging consequences for agriculture and energy production, requiring significant shifts in the way this precious resource is managed.”

Writing in the 22 March DomPost, Nikki Macdonald provides a stark “must read” overview of NZ’s water challenge:

“As demand soars, stressed streams are drying to a pathetic trickle and becoming sullied with fertiliser, cow dung and industrial runoff. Dogs are dying as warm, nutrient-laden waters nurture toxic algae, and grandma’s favourite swimming holes are being closed, as half our lowland streams now have unsafe bacteria levels.”

Environment Minister Mallard says a new national standard for freshwater resources will be released for public discussion on March 29. Rather overdue, I’d say!

Meantime, right here in Hawke’s Bay, without question, water is boiling on the political agenda!

Some terrific articles in the DomPost over the last week by Marty Sharpe and Kathy Webb have helped stir the pot. The Tukituki articles were stimulated by the impressive turnout — representing a broad cross-section of the community — at HBRC’s recent Tukituki meeting.

That in turn was stirred by persistent agitation from the Hawke’s Bay Environmental Water Group (Bill Dodds, David Renouf and John Scott) as well as jawboning from politicos across the spectrum … from Craig Foss and Chris Tremain to Russel Norman.

But just because the issue is on the table, front and center, doesn’t mean the solutions have been found.

As HB Regional Councillor Ewan McGregor says in this week’s Guest Buzzmaker column:

“The gap in appreciation of the state of the (Tukituki) river between those responsible for its health and those who are dissatisfied with it is too wide to accept … Let’s build a bridge to cross the Tukituki divide.”

An accurate assessment … and an admirable aspiration.

Unfortunately, not a lot of bridge-building is likely in the near future if, as rumoured, HBRC hearings officers announce in coming days that they have rejected a HBRC staff recommendation that a series of proposed consents to take water from the Tukituki and Waipawa rivers be denied.

To its credit, the HBRC staff has since last September advocated that no additional groundwater takes be allowed from the Ruataniwha Basin, citing the likely adverse impact on the Tukituki and Waipawa rivers, which staff terms “fully allocated with no new water available for future users.” (12 Sep 2007 staff report).

Unfortunately, the HBRC Councillors (and now hearings officers?) have lacked the spine to back-up the staff’s “shut off the spigot” position. And so the issue will be”studied” a few years. Meantime, consents for surface water takes from the Tuki and Waipawa will be rolled-over and perhaps even new ones granted.

How utterly mindless could this be? Someone say it ain’t so!

Despite Councillor McGregor’s earnest intentions, it looks like the “appreciation gap” is about to cleave into an insuperable chasm.


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