The principal objective of the project is to develop water storage systems that enable a shift towards sustainable, higher-value horticultural land uses which will in turn lift the wellbeing of local communities. Without a reliable source of water, land use change which can provide better outcomes for communities can’t be developed.
The areas to be developed are near Kaikohe in the Mid North and on the northern Pouto peninsula, south of Dargaville. There will be up to four reservoirs in the Mid North scheme and two or three in the Kaipara scheme.
The schemes do not rely on large-scale flooding of existing geography. While each varies slightly in size, what will ultimately be created are relatively small lakes when compared to other similar schemes around the country.
A reliable water supply will give landowners greater options to increase the sustainable productivity of their land by shifting to horticulture, creating more employment opportunities for local communities, which will benefit the local economy. It is expected district councils will invest in the scheme to supplement existing public water supplies meaning water restrictions in times of drought will become less acute.
It is anticipated that the careful allocation of water will facilitate a shift away from pastoral farming to horticulture and in the process, optimise the use and care of the highly versatile soils located within the region. Higher value tree and vine crops offer greater returns and employ more people than present dryland farming operations.
Iwi and hapū have been represented on the Advisory Group which informed decision makers in the early stages of the project and continues as a direct link into the project today. Mana whenua have also been able to provide feedback during the engagement phase of the project and their expert knowledge is highly valued and will continue to be actively sought.
Environmental responsibility is a key consideration of the project. Encouraging a shift away from pastoral land uses will bring long-term environmental benefit.
The Crown is assisting with initial capital costs through the PGF in the form of a mixture of grants and loans. A mixed funding model with multiple partners, including local and central government funding and private investors is likely once the schemes are established.
It is still too early to tell what charges to access the scheme might be. Once delivered to gate, property owners will be required to invest in their own on-farm infrastructure to make use of the water.
The project provides significant opportunities to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The frequency and severity of droughts are expected to increase with climate change and having a reliable water supply, that takes water during the wet months, will become increasingly important to provide resilience and support small rural economies such as Kaikohe and Dargaville.