Action plan revealed
A joint council “taskforce” has been announced to help solve the water woes of Ongaonga and Tikokino residents who have collectively spent more than $126,000 in the past decade upgrading pumps or installing emergency water tanks.
Residents from the two townships, who are not connected to town water and reply on private bores, blame increased irrigation by farmers for dropping water levels in the Ruataniwha basin, the source of their drinking water.
At a public meeting at Tikokino last Wednesday night, Tikokino resident Catherine Hobbs-Turner said it was a regional issue as the Ruataniwha basin covered a huge area, right up to the Kaweka Range, past the Takapau plains to Norsewood then down to Otane.
“It then comes under Ongaonga and Tikokino and then it hits the limestone hills, then comes out at the Tukituki River. It makes up 83 per cent of the river,” she said.
Hobbs-Turner said as a result of increased extraction over the past 10 years, the aquifer had been “deeply impacted” in regards to both storage and flows.
The regional council also rolled out its Sustainable Homes Policy last week, which will allow residents to apply for low-interest loans to get sustainable pumps for their bores or water tanks for emergency water supply.
“It is a solution for now, but it doesn’t take away the fact that this shouldn’t have happened. It’s over-consenting that has caused this issue,” Hobbs-Turner said.
Residents were further concerned about their ability to access adequate drinking water if the regional council granted consent to eight applicants seeking to extract 15 million cubic metres of “tranche 2” groundwater from the Ruataniwha aquifer.
Last Friday, the CHB District and Hawke’s Bay Regional Councils announced they will create a taskforce to manage the short, medium and long-term water issues in the district — a day after a publicly-excluded meeting of management, science, consenting and planning staff from both councils.
In a joint press release, they conceded the science “clearly” showed groundwater levels in the Ruataniwha Basin had dropped as irrigation extraction “dramatically increased”.
The councils announced a survey of Tikokino and Ongaonga residents would be carried out to understand their water supply situation, and that a joint community forum will be held before Christmas to discuss their water quantity “challenges”.
The councils said the taskforce would also work closely with irrigators and industrial water users and the wider community about how to deal with the new minimum flow limits in the Tukituki, which are likely to impact on irrigation this summer.
The regional council also revealed plans to conduct an electro-magnetic aerial survey of the aquifer to help manage water takes and their impacts with “far greater precision and certainty”.
Regional council chief executive James Palmer said it was likely the tranche 2 applications would be publicly notified.
Tikokino resident Catherine Hobbs-Turner at last week’s community meeting at the Tikokino Hotel.