Water battles: new fight looms
In the wake of the failed Ruataniwha Dam proposal, a new dispute over water in Hawke’s Bay is erupting, with conservationists and recreational boaties lining up against orchardists and irrigators in the Ngaruroro River catchment.
Opponents to an application for a Water Conservation Order on the catchment are organising a protest rally featuring tractors and heavy machinery on September 19 – just days after a government-appointed Special Tribunal is in Napier for a prehearing conference.
The Ngaruroro is the region’s second-largest river, with a catchment covering about 2000 square kilometres. It has sources in the Kaimanawa, Kaweka and northern Ruahine Ranges and flows south-east before entering the Pacific Ocean between Napier and Hastings.
In December 2015, five parties applied for a water conservation order for the Ngaruroro and the smaller Clive rivers: Fish and Game, Forest and Bird, Ngati Hori ki Kohupatiki, Whitewater New Zealand and Jet Boating New Zealand.
They want protection of the entire length of both rivers and their tributaries and the groundwater that is hydraulically connected to the Lower Ngaruroro River. The 7km-long Clive River is included because it is the old mouth of the Ngaruroro.
There are about 85 water take consents in the lower Ngaruroro catchment, with a report in 2010 finding it was over-allocated. Most of the water is used on pastoral and orchard land.
The applicants said the Ngaruroro catchment was an outstanding native fish habitat, and supported ’’a significant diversity of species, many of which are classified as threatened’’.
They said the order would seek to preserve the Upper Ngaruroro Waters in their near natural state. Existing uses could continue, but the application would place restrictions on any additional water takes or discharges, and dams.
Orchardist Jerf Van Beek said the order would have a huge impact on urban and rural communities and the region was able to look after the river through the TANK process, which was a group of 35 individuals from various sectors that works with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to review land and water management in the Napier and Hastings areas.
‘‘The WCO will be detrimental to our economy and hundreds of jobs will be lost. We think we can achieve the environmental balance with the processes we have in place,’’ Van Beek said.
Regional council chairman Rex Graham, also an orchardist, said he was ‘‘disappointed that outsiders have interfered’’ with the TANK process.
‘‘We have been working to achieve a balance between farming and the environment. But the WCO will decimate horticulture on the Heretaunga Plains. If the WCO goes ahead it will be the death of business in the region. Let’s not underestimate this – we will be fighting it to the end,’’ Gra- ham said.
The orchardists say the rally on the 19th would involve tractors and heavy machinery and would travel from Hastings to Clive.
Submissions on the application closed on August 24. A prehearing conference will be held in Napier on Friday.
Hawke’s Bay orchardists Jerf Van Beek and Brian McClay put up a sign ahead of rally opposing an application for a Water Conservation Order on the Ngaruroro River.