Hor­ti­cul­ture un­der threat on the Here­taunga Plains

A far reach­ing Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion Or­der has been ap­plied for the Ngaruroro River in Hawke’s Bay which could have po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing af­fects for hor­ti­cul­ture on the Here­taunga Plains.

The Orchardist - - Water - By Rose Man­ner­ing

The Or­der (WCO) pro­poses com­pletely un­work­able re­stric­tions of a to­tal vol­ume of al­lo­cated wa­ter of 1581 litres/sec­ond for the lower Ngaruroro River catch­ment, and Clive River, when the river is less than three times the nat­u­ralised me­dian flow at Fern­hill (70,986 litres/sec­ond). (The nat­u­ralised me­dian flow is what the river level would be if there was no ab­strac­tion.)

Hawke’s Bay Fruit­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Les­ley Wil­son says the low flow limit of 1581 litres/sec­ond would leave no ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter at all for hor­ti­cul­ture on the plains. Mu­nic­i­pal takes for Napier and Hast­ings cities would also come out of this vol­ume, and there would be noth­ing left over.

Hawke’s Bay grows 70% of all the ap­ples in New Zealand and in the next few years that will equate to $700 mil­lion dol­lars be­ing poured into the Hawke’s Bay econ­omy.

“Food se­cu­rity and jobs are put at risk by the pro­posed WCO. Re­mem­ber that one-quar­ter of all peo­ple em­ployed in New Zealand is re­liant on ex­ports. The im­pact on Hawke’s Bay is im­mense; un­der this pro­posal we might as well just pack up and go away.”

In a wa­ter re­stric­tion, the first pri­or­ity is for peo­ple, and then fol­lowed by wa­ter for stock; there would be no wa­ter left over for trees. New sci­ence just re­leased by the Hawke’s Bay Re­gional Coun­cil in­di­cates all of the wa­ter, sur­face and ground­wa­ter, on the Here­taunga Plains is con­nected. The tim­ing of the WCO and the new sci­ence means any re­stric­tions placed would be far reach­ing.

Les­ley says the WCO is a blunt and out­dated in­stru­ment that only cov­ers the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­pects af­fect­ing the river. The or­der un­der­mines a process she, and other pri­mary in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Xan Harding for Hawke’s Bay Wine­grow­ers and Bruce Mackay for Heinz-Wat­tie’s have put a great deal of faith in. All par­ties be­long to TANK, the acro­nym stands for Tu­taekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamu catch­ments, plus the Here­taunga Plains, which brings all in­ter­ested par­ties to the ta­ble to plan the best way for­ward for man­ag­ing wa­ter on the Here­taunga Plains. Land and wa­ter re­sources are un­der re­view in the greater Here­taunga and Ahuriri area.

TANK is a crit­i­cal part of that re­view process; it fo­cuses on wa­ter qual­ity, flows and al­lo­ca­tions in the four catch­ments, in­clud­ing for wet­lands and es­tu­ar­ies. This catch­ment-wide ap­proach to man­ag­ing wa­ter and land would ul­ti­mately lead

to Re­gional Re­source Man­age­ment Plan (RRMP) changes. The greater con­sul­ta­tive ef­fort was in part, to avoid a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to Twyford, where wa­ter users were un­pre­pared for wide-sweep­ing changes to their wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions.


Five par­ties com­bined to an ap­pli­ca­tion for the WCO for the Ngaruroro and Clive rivers with the Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment.The ap­pli­cants are the New Zealand Fish and Game Coun­cil, the Hawke’s Bay Fish and Game Coun­cil, Ng-ati Hori ki Ko­hu­patiki, White­wa­ter New Zealand, Jet Boat­ing New Zealand, and the Royal For­est and Bird Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety of New Zealand.

The ap­pli­cants seek pro­tec­tion of:

• The en­tire length of the Ngaruroro River.

• The trib­u­taries and hy­drauli­cally con­nected ground

wa­ter to the Lower Ngaruroro River.

• The 7km-long Clive River.

The ba­sis for the ap­pli­ca­tion is for “cul­tural and spir­i­tual pur­poses, to pro­tect trout and na­tive fish, and for boat­ing and recre­ation”. A WCO is akin to ap­ply­ing for na­tional park sta­tus to a body of wa­ter. Se­vere wa­ter re­stric­tions along the length of the river would have dire con­se­quences for hor­ti­cul­tural users.

The ap­pli­ca­tion for the WCO was lodged at the end of 2015; more than a year lapsed, then the Min­is­ter ap­pointed a spe­cial tri­bunal in Fe­bru­ary 2017. The tri­bunal then no­ti­fied the sub­mis­sion and called for applications in July, giv­ing sub­mit­ters just 20 work­ing days to re­spond to the tri­bunal.

The next step is an En­vi­ron­ment Court hear­ing, which then makes a rec­om­men­da­tion to the Min­is­ter who in turn would make a rec­om­men­da­tion to the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral, who would make an or­der of coun­cil if the ap­pli­ca­tion was suc­cess­ful.

Fif­teen wa­ter con­ser­va­tion or­ders are in place in wa­ter bod­ies in New Zealand, with three more cur­rently sub­mit­ted for con­sid­er­a­tion.

The Ngaruroro River has its ori­gins in the Kaimanawas, runs into the Kawekas then through farm­land, and hor­ti­cul­tural land be­fore it reaches the Pa­cific Ocean. For the pur­poses of the WCO, it is di­vided into three dis­tinct sec­tions. The Up­per Ngaruroro is largely un­touched, run­ning through for­est park

to Whanawhana (45kms), a sec­tion that is not op­posed by hor­ti­cul­tural users. At this point the river changes from sin­gle chan­nel through greywacke gorge to a braided river. North of Whanawhana the river is largely in its nat­u­ral state, and sup­ports 13 species of en­demic na­tive fish, 9 na­tive species of in­ver­te­brates and 44 na­tive bird species.

The mid­dle sec­tion be­tween Whanawhana and the Ch­ester­hope Bridge at Pakowhai (50km long) is the long­est ex­am­ple in the North Is­land of a braided river. It sim­i­larly sup­ports na­tive species in­clud­ing New Zealand’s unique tor­rent fish.

Recharge to the Here­taunga aquifer sys­tem comes from the Ngaruroro sys­tem; this pro­vides mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter for 80% of the re­gional pop­u­la­tion, and un­der­pins hor­ti­cul­ture on the plains.

The final sec­tion, the Lower Ngaruroro River – Clive River sec­tion un­der­went a ma­jor re­align­ment in 1969 as part of the Here­taunga Plains Flood Con­trol Sys­tem. Ng-ati Hori ki Ko­hu­patiki live along the edge of the Clive River at Farn­don near the town­ship of Clive.

Fish & Game calls for an in­crease in the low flow limit from 2,400 litres/sec­ond to 4,200 litres/sec­ond at Fern­hill in its ap­pli­ca­tion. At a 2,400 litre low flow, a one in 10 year drought would lead to bans be­ing placed. At the raised level of 4,200 litres, bans would come into place ev­ery other year, or 1 in 1.7 years.

A pos­si­ble 222 un­con­fined Ngaruroro ground­wa­ter takes ex­pir­ing in May 2019 could be re­clas­si­fied as stream de­plet­ing, how­ever new sci­ence link­ing all ground­wa­ter would cre­ate a rip­ple ef­fect to all hor­ti­cul­tural users.


The WCO re­quest for a low flow al­lo­ca­tion of just 1,581 litres/ sec­ond at Fern­hill is in stark con­trast to the cur­rent al­lo­ca­tion for sur­face takes only is 5,743 litres/sec­ond, a mas­sive over al­lo­ca­tion of 4,162 litres/sec­ond. These fig­ures were pre­pared by Ir­ri­ga­tion New Zealand North Is­land project man­ager Vicky Bloomer, who says the ef­fect if ground­wa­ter takes were also taken into ac­count would be mas­sive.

Grave re­stric­tions are also placed by the WCO on wa­ter taken for stor­age; wa­ter can only be drawn from the river when flow is above 70,986 litres/sec­ond. In the 2016-17 grow­ing sea­son, there were only 48 days when river flows were high enough to draw for stor­age, and these were dur­ing flood events when the wa­ter con­tained high sed­i­ment lev­els.

Ir­ri­ga­tion NZ in its sub­mis­sion to the EPA has sup­ported the WCO sta­tus for the Up­per Ngaruroro above Whanawhana.


The lower Ngaruroro River and Clive Rivers are highly mod­i­fied en­vi­ron­ments. A drainage and flood con­trol scheme has been es­tab­lished on both rivers since the late 1800’s, and has been ex­panded over time to now in­clude:

577 km of river, stream and drainage chan­nels.

287 km of ‘live edge pro­tec­tion’ – to re­duce ero­sion and slow flood wa­ters.

196 struc­tures in­clud­ing, cul­verts, flood­gates, con­trol gates, weirs, rock groynes and pipe­lines.

5 de­ten­tion dams.

18 pump sta­tions, 7 mo­bile pumps and 2 emer­gency gen­er­a­tors.

155 km of stop banks and de­flec­tion banks.

Ap­prox­i­mately 760 ha of land, in­clud­ing river berms and land un­der­ly­ing other scheme as­sets.

The scheme pro­vides flood con­trol and drainage ben­e­fits for ap­prox­i­mately 39,000 hectares of pre­mium hor­ti­cul­tural land along, with pro­tec­tion for ap­prox­i­mately 127,000 peo­ple.

All fruit­grow­ers, wine grow­ers, grower or­gan­i­sa­tions and re­lated in­dus­tries were called upon to sub­mit to the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency prior to the Au­gust 24 dead­line to en­gage in the con­sent process.

“The scheme pro­vides flood con­trol and drainage ben­e­fits for ap­prox­i­mately 39,000

hectares of pre­mium hor­ti­cul­tural land along,

with pro­tec­tion for ap­prox­i­mately

127,000 peo­ple.”

The Here­taunga aquifer is shaded in blue.

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