The newly established Te Tai Tokerau Water Trust has moved quickly to lodge an application under the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act to commence construction of a water storage reservoir near Kaikohe, the first of 17 nationally fast-tracked infrastructure projects approved by the Government to do so.
The Act, which prioritises projects that can boost employment and economic recovery, has only been law since July and allows for projects to proceed through a fast-track consenting process, likely to take 45 to 70 working days. Applications for resource consents typically take around four to six months to process for approval.
The Matawii reservoir near Kaikohe is the first in the Trust’s plan to create water storage and distribution systems in two areas within Northland, one of the largest infrastructure projects undertaken in the province for decades. Construction of the Matawii reservoir is expected to provide up to 70 jobs.
“This project is not just shovel ready as they say, it’s underway right now,” said Trust chair and former Foreign Affairs minister Murray McCully.
Mr McCully said the water schemes, in the Mid-North and the northern Pouto Peninsula in Kaipara, would allow landowners to plan potential land use change with confidence and could support the development of around 7000ha of new horticultural development, an approximately 50 per cent increase in Northland’s current area under production.
It was hoped a construction partner to create the Matawii reservoir would be known by the end of August with work to begin as soon as consent was approved. Construction could also begin on two others, one each on the Kaipara and Mid North by February 2021. The first phase of the Matawii scheme could be operational by summer 2021/22.
The Trust, which also includes former Labour minister Dover Samuels, Dargaville accountant Kathryn de Bruin and Okaihau civil contractor Ken Rintoul, had received $67.5m in funding assistance from the Provincial Growth Fund to develop the schemes.
“While we might have had plenty of rain lately, we are all acutely aware of the problems faced in the North through water scarcity. This is a once in a lifetime transformational opportunity for Tai Tokerau,” Murray McCully said.
“You only have to look to Kerikeri to see what a reliable source of water can do for a community. The success of the horticultural industry there has been largely built on the back of government funded reservoirs which were built in the 1980s. Now it’s time for other areas in Northland to get the same opportunity and we are very thankful for the government support to help us address the issue.”
The schemes would also be available to bolster municipal water supply to Dargaville and Kaikohe, as well as address disparities in Māori access to water for land development.
Economic analysis had indicated provision of the water storage schemes could generate an increase in economic activity of $67m per annum in the Mid-North and $83m in the Kaipara and could create up to 880 new jobs across both regions.
Preliminary geotechnical engineering investigations have been completed at sites in both areas and archaeological and ecological work, conducted in partnership with local hapū, was also underway.
The scheme design would collect water from natural sources in times of high flows through pumping systems and gravity. The water would then be stored in the newly created reservoirs and distributed through a network of pipes in times of need.
Terence Brocx, who owns a 200 cow dairy farm near Ohaeawai said there was strong interest in the project from within the wider primary sector in the Mid-North and a belief that there was significant potential to grow high-value horticulture in the region if a reliable source of water was available.
“The whole area is ripe for development because there are top class soils, which along with a desirable climate, has the ability to grow high value crops, but the only thing that is missing is reliable water,” Mr Brocx said.
“I’m excited about the prospect of what this water scheme could mean for the region.”
He said that some landowners would develop their own land, some would diversify part of their property and some would sell to other developers who would be attracted to the region by the security a water scheme would provide for horticultural development.
“Either way, the region will benefit from increased investment and economic activity.”
About Te Tai Tokerau Water Trust
The Trust are the Crown’s appointed representatives charged with delivering on the transformational promise of the water storage and use scheme in Northland. Its objective is to create the infrastructure needed to promote sustainable land-use change which will in turn lift the prosperity of local communities. The project also aims to address disparities in Māori access to water for land development. Development of the scheme is expected to lift employment by 12% in the Mid-North and 5% in the Kaipara per annum.
For more information contact Greg Hay - 021545054