Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Provincial Growth Fund minister Shane Jones with Mayor Jason Smith and Kaipara stakeholders at the announcement of a $12.7 million ‘unconditional cheque’ for water initiatives

Water grant paints bright future

by Andy Bryenton

Last week’s announcement of a $12 million boost for the water storage and use project “has the potential to create hundreds of jobs and grow Northland’s economy by tens of millions annually,” according to Northland Regional Council chair, Penny Smart.

Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith joined Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Provincial Growth Fund minister Shane Jones and former MP Dover Samuels at Dargaville’s Lighthouse Function Centre last Friday, for the announcement of what Mr Jones called “an unconditional cheque to help boost water management in the region”.

Ms Smart said afterwards that the proposed water storage “would be very helpful right now when the region is teetering on the edge of full-blown drought.” The money will be spent locally under the ‘kai for Kaipara’ banner, promoting more efficient and profitable farming practices.

The announcement came directly after $109 million was earmarked by the ministers last week for rail improvements, which affect Kaipara and all of Northland as well as a $692 million allocation for four-laning the road between Whangarei and Port Marsden.

Mr Peters “remembered Dargaville as an economic powerhouse in times past,” and outlined his vision for a return to that status.

“Shane and I are Northland boys,” he said. “We are proud to have come off a dairy farm. More reliable water supply could bring $150 million to horticulture and agriculture here. We have watched over the years as Northland has been forgotten. You need people (in government) who ensure that the voice of Northland, and dare I say it the provinces, are heard.”

Shane Jones added that “if you want to convert and change land-use patterns; well, without water that isn’t going to happen. The funding was a gesture of confidence, for you who want to revitalise your economy.”

Chair Smart said: “A lot of Northland’s rain comes at once. 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 collaborative project involves NRC, 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. He says 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, February 18 and Ohaeawai Rugby Club from 10am to 2pm on Wednesday, February 19.

Dover Samuels summed up: “It is the first time in my life that I have seen the doors of opportunity open up in this way to a region that has been taken for granted. The sun has risen on Taitokerau, and it’s up to regional authorities to meet the challenge.” Samuels also made a nod to the fact that this is an election year, humorously noting that Mr Jones would soon be asking locals for their votes.