The government has earmarked $1.25 million towards improving freshwater quality in the Northern Wairoa River and a further $782,975 towards cleaning up more than two dozen Northland dune lakes, with a further $1.5 million to come from the Northland Regional Council.
“These projects demonstrate a strong degree of collaboration between our council, local iwi and our primary sector with a shared goal of improving freshwater. It’s fantastic to see central government also coming to the party with significant contributions of its own to these two very worthwhile projects,” said NRC chair Bill Shepherd.
The larger of the two initiatives, the Northern Wairoa Freshwater Improvement Project, will likely cost $2.5 million over the next five years. It is designed to reduce sediment and bacteria levels in the river and its tributaries, and involves working with landowners to carry out sustainable land management practices.
The Northland Dune Lakes Strategic Water Quality Improvement will cost almost $1.6 million over a similar length of time. Dune lakes in the wider Aupouri and Pouto areas are targeted to reduce nutrient levels and remove and control pest fish and water weeds.
Meanwhile a $300,000-plus study says future horticulture irrigation projects in the Kaipara and mid-North could create hundreds of jobs.
NRC Kaipara constituent Penny Smart says a larger-scale Kaipara water storage option would encourage diversification of existing land use, as well as provide a reliable water supply within Dargaville and the wider community.
“The study estimates around 6,300 hectares, much of it on the Pouto Peninsula, could be irrigated for about $115 million, predicting this could lead to employment for another 950 people and contribute about $85 million to the region’s GDP annually.”
However, building the schemes would not come cheap, with a Kaipara option estimated at $17,000 per hectare. “The study suggests one possible solution could be to establish a special funding body to enable a mix of public, private and iwi investment.”
Kaipara District Council mayor Greg Gent welcomed the report: “Economic prosperity for Kaipara has a strong primary sector bias. A key part of any growth will involve a regular supply of water that can be managed in a way that protects the wider environment.”
However, even with support, it’s likely to take years and many millions of dollars of design and engineering work before an irrigation scheme begins.