Recharge trial aims to turn the tide
Of the about 18,000 hectares that makes up Gisborne’s fertile Poverty Bay Flats, only about 3,000 are irrigated and they produce $160 million in regional GDP annually. However, supporters of an aquifer recharge trial on the Flats say it could be a game-ch
BY Gisborne District Council’s own admission, an aquifer recharge project taking place on its patch amounts to little more than “a couple of pipes poking up out of the ground in thoroughly unspectacular fashion”, but they hope it’s going to be a lot more than that.
GDC’s latest Summer Crop Survey (2016/2017) of arable land in the region shows there is around 239,498 hectares of useable land in the area from Motu to Te Araroa, of which about 18,000ha makes up the intensively-cropped Poverty Bay Flats.
In terms of water delivery to those Flats a significant source is the Makauri Gravel Aquifer, which supplies about half of all the groundwater – nearly a third of all irrigation – used on those fertile plains.
But with water levels in the aquifer having been in decline for decades, council says it is not an endless resource and, in an effort to ensure future water security, has launched a project to trial “recharging” the aquifer.
That involves pumping high-flow water from the Waipaoa River through a pilot bore and into the aquifer, and it’s not cheap: the Makauri Aquifer Recharge (MAR) scheme receives up to $250,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) Irrigation Acceleration Fund, added to GDC’s input of $230,000 and a grant of $200,000 from Eastland Community Trust.
Increasing sustainable production through irrigation is one of the four key themes of the government’s Economic Action Plan for Gisborne/Tairawhiti and when in Gisborne on June 20 to “turn the tap on” for the recharge project, the Minister for Primary Industries said the aquifer was crucial to the local economy.