Progress on water

Published on 17 September 2020


It may feel like Spring is already here, but the equinox - when the sun crosses the equator and enters the Southern Hemisphere - isn’t until next Wednesday.  Whichever system you use to mark the first day of Spring, warmer weather is here. 

This time last year, most of the district was emerging from one of the driest winters on record.  By the end of the year, Kaitaia had recorded its lowest annual rainfall since records began in 1949.  By contrast, this winter was one of the wettest for some parts of Northland.  Kaikohe, for instance, recorded 935 mm of winter rain, its second highest winter total since records began in 1956.  The rain this winter, and NIWA predictions of normal or above average rainfall this Spring, have helped to reduce the need for water restrictions this side of Christmas.  However, we cannot afford to be complacent.  Summer water restrictions are the norm at many of our drought-prone water supplies.  We are therefore encouraging people to use water thoughtfully this Spring. 

The Council was criticized last summer for not making the district’s water supplies more drought-resilient.  Last month, elected members gave staff the green light to develop a new water source for Kaitaia’s water supply.  We are developing a bore site at Sweetwater near Awanui and plan to pipe water 14 km to the Council’s water treatment plant in Okahu Road.  When commissioned in mid to late 2021, this new source will reduce our reliance on the Awanui River which flowed at historic low levels last summer.  In the meantime, we are planning to build a permanent weir in the Awanui River.  This will raise the river level near our water intake pipe and allow us to draw water from the river when flows are low. 

In Kaikohe, where water shortages were most acute last summer, we are moving ahead with a proposal to develop a second bore at Monument Hill.  While this project is still at an early stage, we are encouraged by the quality of water from this bore.  The Council is also involved in a Provincial Growth Fund project to develop water storage at Kaikohe and construction of a reservoir could begin this summer. 

Drought resilience projects in Kaitaia and Kaikohe could also benefit from funding under the Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme.  We will get initial programme funding of $5.9 million and may receive further funds when Northland councils allocate funding for regional projects.  Joining the programme at this stage only commits us to share information about our infrastructure and talk to neighbouring councils about options for large-scale delivery of water services.  We are under no obligation to join the next stage of the programme if we don’t believe this is in the interests of our communities.  We are in a much better place than we were this time last year and are generally pleased with the progress we are making on future-proofing our water supplies.