Challenges and opportunities

Published on 04 February 2021

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Kia ora koutou.  I hope you and your whanau had a safe and enjoyable summer break and 2021 is a prosperous year for you. 

I want to thank editor Peter Jackson for giving me the opportunity again to share important information with you through my weekly column in The Northland Age, which is also published here. I have used the column since I was first elected Mayor in 2013 to keep the community informed about the work the Council is progressing to make the Far North a better place.  I encourage you to read the column so you know how we are addressing opportunities and challenges the district faces. 

Last year was a challenging year for the Far North District.  We started the year in the grip of the worst drought in decades and COVID-19 had a big impact on businesses and households, particularly those that rely on tourism for a livelihood.  These challenges have not gone away.  News last month that a Northland woman had tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving a managed isolation facility was a reminder that the pandemic is still a real and serious public health threat.  It is likely that the pandemic will cast a shadow over our lives for most of 2021.  While business confidence in New Zealand is recovering on the back of strong construction activity, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Europe and the United States.  It is difficult to predict when it will be safe to reopen the border. 

We have been blessed with perfect summer weather, which has been a boon for tourism businesses, but the lack of rain has reduced flows in streams and rivers.  Water restrictions are now in place at five of our  water supplies.  There is a sprinkler and hose-pipe ban (Level 3 restrictions) in Kaitaia, Kaikohe and Kawakawa and a sprinkler ban at properties connected to our Kerikeri and Paihia-Waitangi-Opua water supplies where Level 2 restrictions came into effect on 2 February.  We appreciate the inconvenience and burden that water restrictions place on households and businesses and are advancing a number of projects to make our supplies more drought-resilient.  In Kaitaia, we are developing a bore site at Sweetwater and plan to pipe aquifer water to our water treatment plant in Okahu Road.  We aim to commission this new water source before the end of 2021.  In the meantime, we are working to make an existing Council bore at Sweetwater available to bulk water carriers this summer to ease pressure on Kaitaia’s main water source the Awanui River.  In Kaikohe, we are drilling and testing a second bore at Tokareireia (Monument Hill) to supplement another bore and the Wairoro Stream.  We may begin drawing water from this bore later this month if tests show the bore is a viable water source. 

These drought-resilience projects are just two of the infrastructure projects we are progressing across the district.  I will talk about this bigger programme of works in my next column.  Until then, thanks for reading.  Kia pai to ra.