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

The Orchardist - - News - By Kristine Walsh

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.

In­stal­la­tion of the head­works in­fra­struc­ture for the Makauri Aquifer Recharge project got un­der­way in May, 2017. Pic­ture sup­plied

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