The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council looks set to begin actively investigating freshwater storage sites in the Heretaunga rohe to provide for the region’s current and future water requirements.
This follows a recommendation from the Environment and Integrated Catchments Committee today, which will be considered by a meeting of the full Regional Council on 29th July.
Regional Council Chair Rex Graham says the decision is an important step in solving the objective of ensuring Heretaunga has long term, climate-resilient and secure supplies of freshwater for all.
“Water security is critical to the social, economic and environmental future of the region,” he says.
He says the Regional Council faces a choice between just looking after the current state of play, or taking an ambitious position to provide for the sustainable growth and well-being of the region through future proofing water requirements.
“We want to take the ambitious approach and accelerate this work to future proof our water supply in Heretaunga. This will allow for cities and businesses to grow, despite the challenges of climate change,” he says.
The Heretaunga water investigation is one of four projects making up the Regional Council’s freshwater security programme, jointly funded with the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
The Regional Council has already directed staff to accelerate the water security programme to urgently investigate storage options to increase the supply of water in Heretaunga and Central Hawke’s Bay.
Mr Graham says since the Council first started on the programme of work, the region has, and continues to, experience one of its worst droughts on record.
“The drought has coincided with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and its developing economic and social impacts. These events are severely damaging to the region’s economic and social well-being, and highlight the type of events the region may expect more often with a changing climate,” he says.
Mr Graham says in simple terms, the investigations are looking at water storage options to carry excess water winter through to dry periods in summer, alongside investigations into sustainable agriculture and horticulture practices through the Future Farming Fund.
“We are looking for solutions to effectively protect and enhance environmental outcomes and provide a secure and sufficient water supply to ensure a positive regional future and meet the foreseeable needs of future generations,” he says.
Mr Graham says it’s too early in the process to discuss what areas are being considered, and today’s decision is a small but important first step in the process.
“This way we can investigate options and talk to affected parties to make sure their concerns and interests are protected through the investigation in a way that recognises and balances community interest in the project,” he says.
A report presented to the Regional Council last week predicts the region’s annual GDP to fall by up to $120 million per annum by the middle of the century if nothing is done about water security to adapt to the impacts of climate change.