Wa­ter bat­tles: new fight looms

The Hastings Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MARTY SHARPE

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.

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