Back-up water supply for Kaikohe gets green light

Published on 26 May 2020

Pipeline Lake Omapere.jpg

Drought-stricken Kaikohe has a new back-up water supply, thanks to the Provincial Growth Fund and two Iwi Trusts.

The Northland District Health Board has signed-off new treatment measures for water sourced from Lake Omapere under agreements the Council has reached with Lake Omapere Trust and Omapere Taraire E Rangihamama X3A Ahuwhenua Trust. 

With the support of the Provincial Growth Fund and the Iwi Trusts, the Council has spent the last two months developing infrastructure to allow the lake to be used as a back-up water supply.  This work has involved installing extensive, extra water treatment infrastructure at the Taraire Hills Water Treatment Plant, so it can remove toxin-producing bacteria from the lake water. In the past, Lake Omapere has suffered from algal blooms that can produce harmful toxins.  

Mayor John Carter says piping lake water to the treatment plant was a relatively straightforward job and this work was completed in March.  However, ensuring the lake water meets NZ Drinking Water Standards has been a far more complex problem to solve. “Our staff and our alliance partner Far North Waters have worked closely with the Northland District Health Board and water treatment consultants to modify the Taraire Hills Water Treatment Plant, so we can be sure it will remove toxin-producing bacteria if an algal bloom reoccurs in the lake.”  This was achieved by creating a large settlement reservoir that allows material that may harbour the toxin-producing bacteria to settle out and be removed from the system. “The DHB agrees this will ensure the safety of the supply and it has now given us the green light to use water from Lake Omapere.”

Mayor Carter says the Council will only supply treated water from the lake if its normal water sources fail. “We have successfully removed the danger of cyanobacteria-related toxins, but we cannot remove all of the unpleasant odour and taste of the lake water. While the water is safe to drink, we will only use it in an emergency to avoid taps running dry.”

He says the town’s primary water source, the Wairoro Stream, is still running below consented levels, but flows have stabilised and should increase gradually as winter approaches.  “Kaikohe residents and businesses have done a fantastic job of reducing their water consumption by 25 per cent and more since mid-February. I encourage people to continue to make these savings to avoid the need to use the lake as a water supply.”

Mayor Carter is grateful to the Iwi Trusts for making the lake available as a temporary water supply.  He also thanks Regional Economic Development Minister, Shane Jones, for allocating $2 million from the Provincial Growth Fund for temporary water supplies in Kaikohe and Kaitaia as part of the Government’s response to the drought.  “The cooperation between the Government, the Council and the Trusts who are the kaitiaki of Lake Omapere has delivered a good outcome for the Kaikohe community.”

Up to $30 million has been provided through the Provincial Growth Fund for Far North, Mid-North and Kaipara to investigate potential water storage sites in the regions.  The Council is also working with the Northland Regional Council and others in the development of water reservoirs in the Kaikohe area.

An initial site near Kaikohe has been identified and, depending on post-COVID-19 timeframes, construction is expected to get underway next summer.  Further sites will be explored as the project evolves.  The plan is to build a series of small-scale reservoirs and create a distribution pipeline.

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