$12M funding boost - regional water storage and use project

31 Jan 2020, 11:55 AM

Today’s, Friday 31 January announcement of a $12 million boost for the water storage and use project underscores the Government’s confidence in the scheme and the region, says Northland Regional Council Chair Penny Smart.

“This round of Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) funding will increase our ability to deliver vital infrastructure for the region – it’s the backing needed to forge ahead with plans to collect, store and distribute water in such a way that there will be minimal impact on the environment.”

Initial studies indicate the water storage and use project has the real potential to create hundreds of jobs and grow Northland’s economy by tens of millions annually.

While primarily aimed at storing water for horticulture, it may also provide a valuable supply of water for municipal supplies should district councils decide to invest in the project for this purpose.

“This would be very helpful right now when the region is teetering on the edge of full-blown drought,” Chair Smart says. “A lot of Northland’s rain comes at once and there is a huge opportunity to capture this water and provide greater resilience to climate change, along with economic opportunities for our communities. The water storage project is about collecting the rain water and making it available when it’s needed.”

The project’s potential to open-up land for high value horticulture was earlier recognised with an $18.5M allocation from the PGF last year. The collaborative initiative is led by the regional council and involves the Far North and Kaipara District Councils and Northland Inc.

Northland Inc CEO Murray Reade says the project provides a much-needed opportunity to manage a critical resource for the region. “The initiative will provide benefits to local businesses and communities to help develop our economy.”

Experts will be available to discuss infrastructural aspects of the project and the horticultural opportunities it could present at drop-in days at Sportsville Dargaville from 10am to 2pm on Tuesday 18 February and Ōhaeawai Rugby Club from 10am to 2pm on Wednesday 19 February.

Oturei farmer Dennis Te Tuhi currently runs a 40ha sheep and beef farm south of Dargaville. He says any opportunity to transition to a higher value land use would bring benefits for both landowners and the wider community.

“We have good soils for horticulture in our region but as we’re finding out right now, we’re vulnerable to mother nature if it doesn’t rain. This water storage scheme would mean I could get the best value out of my land and have confidence that any investment made to develop it wouldn’t be wasted because we could manage the drought risk.

“It would mean we could employ a lot more people so the effects would flow all through the community.”

Today’s funding top-up caps off a whopping week of Government investment in Northland, coming on top of a $692M allocation for four-laning the road between Whangārei and Port Marsden, and a $109.7M investment in Northland rail.

“It’s all brilliant news,” says Chair Smart. “We’re so pleased that after years of frustration trying to secure funding for our region, Northland’s now getting the attention it deserves and needs.”