Aupo¯uri wa­ter take is ap­proved

The Northland Age - - Local News -

In­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion­ers have granted a group of 17 Far North av­o­cado grow­ers re­source con­sent to col­lec­tively take more than two mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter a year from the Aupo¯uri aquifer.

The con­sents will al­low for a to­tal of 2,060,655 cu m to be taken an­nu­ally across three ‘aquifer man­age­ment sub­units’: Wai­par­era (1,164,325 cu m), Mo­tu­tangi (566,960 cu m) and Houhora (329,370).

The largest sin­gle al­lo­ca­tion of 418,000 cu m has gone to an ap­pli­cant in the Mo­tu­tangi zone, while the two small­est, both 14,900 cu m , are in the Wai­par­era and Houhora zones.

The ap­pli­cants, col­lec­tively re­ferred to as the Mo­tu­tangi-Wai­harara Wa­ter Users Group (MWWUG), had been seek­ing per­mis­sion to take al­most 2.5 mil­lion cu m an­nu­ally from a deep shell bed layer of the aquifer to ir­ri­gate their av­o­cado or­chards.

The ap­pli­ca­tions were no­ti­fied on a limited ba­sis to more than 1000 own­ers/ oc­cu­piers of ad­ja­cent prop­er­ties in Oc­to­ber last year, with 42 of the 57 sub­mis­sions re­ceived op­pos­ing, eight sup­port­ing and seven neu­tral.

Op­po­nents’ con­cerns fell into eight broad cat­e­gories — the vol­ume of the pro­posed take, its ef­fect on ex­ist­ing bores, wa­ter qual­ity, eco­log­i­cal is­sues, salt wa­ter intrusion, lack of con­sul­ta­tion, in­ad­e­quacy of assessment and mon­i­tor­ing, and cultural is­sues.

In­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion­ers David Hill (chair­man) and Peter Callander, who heard the ap­pli­ca­tions on be­half of the North­land Re­gional Coun­cil, in­clud­ing a three-day sit­ting in Kaita¯ia in March, ac­cepted that sub­mit­ters had ex­pressed a rea­son­able con­cern the safety and se­cu­rity of the aquifer, which was the sole source of ground­wa­ter for com­mu­ni­ties on the penin­sula.

Based on ev­i­dence from the ap­pli­cant, coun­cil ex­perts and sub­mit­ters, they were well aware that the aquifer was po­ten­tially vul­ner­a­ble, “due to its con­nec­tion to the sea and the variable amounts of rain­fall recharge re­lated to cli­matic changes and the clear­ing and plant­ing of forestry blocks”.

Low­er­ing ground­wa­ter lev­els by in­creased ab­strac­tion posed a risk of sea wa­ter intrusion and a risk to the abil­ity of ex­ist­ing users to ab­stract ground­wa­ter and to the health of the Kaimau­mau wet­land.

How­ever, based on tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion from the ap­pli­cant and coun­cil ex­perts, they agreed that the rate of recharge could com­fort­ably sus­tain the level of ab­strac­tion pro­posed.

The com­mis­sion­ers noted that “as with many ground­wa­ter devel­op­ment sce­nar­ios,” there was a de­gree of un­cer­tainty about the mag­ni­tude of change that might oc­cur.

“This can be ad­e­quately ad­dressed through an adap­tive man­age­ment strat­egy, as set out in the ground­wa­ter mon­i­tor­ing and contin­gency plan, and a staged ap­proach to tak­ing the max­i­mum con­sented vol­umes of wa­ter,” they said.

They also ac­knowl­edged the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s “quite proper con­cerns” about the value and im­por­tance of the Kaimau­mau wet­land, and its na­tional sta­tus, and fears that the pro­posed ab­strac­tion could af­fect it.

“Af­ter hav­ing re­gard to the ac­tual and po­ten­tial ef­fects on the en­vi­ron­ment of al­low­ing the pro­posed ac­tiv­ity, and tak­ing into ac­count the rel­e­vant statu­tory pro­vi­sions, we find that con­sent for the pro­posed ac­tiv­i­ties should be granted…,” they said.

They found that the proposal was con­sis­tent with the pro­vi­sions of the rel­e­vant statu­tory doc­u­ment(s), and that

the con­di­tions im­posed would avoid, rem­edy or mit­i­gate any ad­verse ef­fects.

“Any risk to or po­ten­tial ef­fect on the Kaimau­mau Wet­land can be averted and avoided through the adap­tive man­age­ment con­di­tions im­posed,” they said.

The amount of wa­ter to be ab­stracted was well within the pa­ram­e­ters es­tab­lished by the best in­for­ma­tion cur­rently avail­able.

The com­mis­sion­ers’ de­ci­sion — which, in­clud­ing con­di­tions, can be seen at www.nrc.govt.nz/consent­de­ci­sions — is open to ap­peal for 15 work­ing days.

PIC­TURE / NRC

In­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion­ers Peter Callander and David Hill hear­ing sub­mis­sions in Kaita¯ ia ear­lier this year.

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