Council opposes water conservation order

Hastings District Council has opposed an application for a proposed water conservation order (WCO) on the Ngaruroro and Clive Rivers, believing it not in the best interests of the district. A special tribunal has been appointed by the Minister for the Environment to consider the application. 

Council is concerned that the WCO application, which recommends specific restrictions in relation to how water from these rivers can be used, would have a devastating effect on both the rural and urban economy and serious implications for how the Council supplies water across the district. The Ngaruroro River recharges the aquifer which supplies drinking water to 80 per cent of the region’s people, says acting Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst. 

“Careful management of the lower Ngaruroro and Clive River catchments is needed to sustain the economic and social wellbeing of the whole community,” says Mrs Hazlehurst. “The WCO would be devastating for the Heretaunga Plains. Whilst Council absolutely acknowledges that water quality and other characteristics of these catchments are important and highly valued, we consider that the extent of the controls recommended in the application would seriously impact our region’s economy and for our people, that means employment.” 

Council’s submission relates particularly to concerns around the restrictions on water takes for urban water supply and irrigation, which would impact not only upon the horticultural industry,but also have flow on effects for the industries that support them and the wider community, many of whom work in horticulture and those support industries. 

Council’s submission accepts that the protection sought in the water conservation order application may be acceptable for the upper reaches of the Ngaruroro, but rejects the application’s approach to the lower Ngaruroro and Clive catchments. 

“The lower Ngaruroro and Clive River catchments are used for a wide range of purposes, which require a more balanced and locally driven approach than that sought in the water conservation order,” says Mrs Hazlehurst. 

Council has been actively involved in the TANK Group (for the Tutaekuri, Ngaruroro, Ahuriri and Karamu), the collaborative community consultation process established by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council in 2012 to develop an integrated freshwater management regime for the Heretaunga Plains as a whole. Council considers this the most appropriate process for determining the future management of these catchments. 

The TANK process is based on a best practice collaborative decision making process, with the best available scientific information, and is flexible and adapatable to enable multiple objectives to be achieved. The scientific knowledge built up by the TANK Group since 2012 has fundamentally changed the understanding about how water bodies function and relate to each other, fostering consideration of new and innovative management approaches. 

“Our priority is to ensure that the economic, social and recreational values of the district are properly protected alongside environmental values and that the wider ramifications of this order are properly considered,” says Mrs Hazlehurst. “Council strongly supports TANK as the appropriate forum for addressing these local water catchments, with local people involved who fully understand the water needs of our region.”