Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.

JOHN CARTER - MAYOR OF THE FAR NORTH DISTRICT OF NEW ZEALAND


Moving forward together

Thursday 17 April 2014

Wheels in motion

The prolonged summer without significant rain has drawn the vulnerability of some of our water supply schemes into sharp focus and has been a painful reminder of just how precarious the narrow line is between affordability and necessity. In an ideal world, the long-term problems associated with water delivery in locations such as Kaitaia, Rawene and Opononi would have been addressed a decade ago. The fact is, we have tended to put the construction of water, and also wastewater, assets on the back-burner. The question has always been, can we afford it? Sooner or later, a point is reached at which necessity outweighs affordability, irrespective of the financial climate. That is now the case with these three water supply schemes and we can no longer tinker around the edges with temporary and part solutions. There has to be a commitment to move forward, find staged solutions, talk with our communities and build for the future.

In the case of the Sweetwater aquifer, definitive pump testing will very soon be underway to address sustainability issues raised, a liaison group has been established to keep the lines of communication open with the community, and an internal governance group has been set up to ensure continuity and co-ordinate the planning effort. Irrespective of the testing outcome, that is not necessarily the end of it. We are also dusting off files on decades of investigations into raw water sources for Kaitaia - some dating back to the 1980's - to ensure the aquifer is the best and most sustainable long-term option. The delay may be expensive, but we would rather be sure than sorry.

At the same time, we have made a commitment to lift the ongoing needs of Rawene and Opononi/Omapere out of the too-hard basket and to focus with renewed purpose on how best to achieve a sustainable outcome for the future. A lot of the research has been done over the years. It's now time to start finding and costing practical solutions. Transporting water or requiring people building new dwellings to install their own rainwater collection and storage facilities may be more cost-effective options, but whatever the outcome 1t's way past time for procrastinating. If current global climate trends continue the water supply situation in the Far North is only going to get worse. Because these issues touch both on our daily living needs and our pockets there are always going to be sensitivities which will need to be addressed. However, we cannot continue to leave things to the next generation or excuse inaction on the grounds of poverty or political expediency. This is not something which can be rushed, but the time to set the wheels in motion is now.

 

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