The Regional Council today engaged in a robust discussion of how to proceed with water security options for Central Hawke’s Bay.
Two aspects of the discussion were most promising:
- There was apparent agreement by all councillors that ‘water security’ needed to be pursued in its broadest context — looking at water conservation & recycling, future water allocation, farming practices and land use change, aquifer recharge, as well as above-ground water storage.As HB Water Security Manager Tom Skerman noted in a subsequent media release: “There is no single bullet for Hawke’s Bay’s water challenges. Every possible option is now being considered, from below ground Managed Aquifer Recharge, to above ground storage where it can work, to water conservation, alternative farming systems and land use change.”
- Similar consensus emerged that these options could not be prudently evaluated until a much clearer assessment of future water demand and supply, informed by science efforts now underway, could be completed … which means decisions wouldn’t be taken until late next year.
Small- to mid-size water storage options will not, for now, be pursued in terms of engineering and geotechnical investigation, although further work will be undertaken to suss the economics of storage at such scale. So those options remain alive.
Two ‘elephants in the room’ were also discussed.
Councillor Martin Williams nailed (taped, may be more accurate) himself to the mast in support of the original Ruataniwha Dam proposition, unless eventually convinced that the CHB ‘water gap’ — yet to be sized — was able to be met by other options. On the other hand, Councillor Neil Kirton likened attempts to keep the Ruataniwha scheme alive as akin to “giving mouth-to-mouth to a rotten corpse”.
To Chairman Rex Graham, the real ‘elephant in the room’ was the “legacy decisions that poorly allocated water in CHB”, with so much water allocated to so few. Until that was addressed, he said, the community will remain divided.
This is the key message CHB water users have yet to take aboard.
Councillor Barker also argued that the present allocation of water was inequitable, giving wealth to a few, and would not be resolved by building the Ruataniwha Dam. And further, that without better protection of the environment, there would be “no support for any dam at any time”.
With views aired, councillors voted unanimously to:
- Proceed with the managed aquifer recharge pilot project;
- Do more evaluation of small-scale dam economics;
- Continue with the Regional Water Assessment; and,
- Undertake targeted community consultation informed by the findings of that Assessment.
Where that leaves the Tukituki Leaders Forum, now simply a water users group, is unclear.
What is clear … HBRC is a good year away from major ‘water security’ decisions for CHB.