Last updated 12:51, April 23 2018
The Ruamāhanga River near Te Whiti Rd, Masterton.
Plans to cut water availability near Wairarapa waterways could lead to farmers turning their land into lifestyle blocks and walking away.
The Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Ruamāhanga Whaitua Committee, a catchment advisory group, has released several recommendations, one of which includes stopping groundwater extraction from Wairarapa’s main rivers when water levels are below minimum flow.
A double whammy for Masterton district is that the minimum flow levels of the Upper Ruamāhanga and Waipoua rivers would also increase, thereby extending the likely periods of no water availability.
Jamie Falloon of Federated Farmers says lack of water could lead to farmers selling up.
The recommendations were more severe than the proposed Natural Resources Plan, which allowed users with a direct connection to a waterway to reduce their take by 50 per cent at minimum flow.
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Federated Farmers Wairarapa branch president Jamie Falloon said those changes could make farming uneconomic for tracts within 800 metres of affected waterways.
CALEB HARRIS/FAIRFAX NZ
Waipoua River is one of two rivers to have its minimum low flow increased.
“To maintain their current operations, the loss of reliability would make irrigating uneconomic and then you might as well not even bother. All that land by the river could be turned into lifestyle blocks,” he said.
The Whaitua committee decided that allowing Category A groundwater users to continue to take water from nearby streams during low flow would have a negative impact on stream health and water reliability for other users.
The committee was aware a complete stop would create significant issues for reliability of supply for users and, therefore, affect farming economics.
The Ruamāhanga River near Mt Bruce.
It has proposed a 10-year timeframe for the recommendations to come into effect to give users time to prepare.
Providing water to increase low flows in local rivers is a key feature of the proposed large scale water storage scheme.
Water Wairarapa project director Michael Bassett-Foss said it had long been identified that having a more reliable source of water had the potential to deliver significant long-term economic and social gains that would provide resilience to Wairarapa communities.
“A lot of water users and irrigators are already faced with reliability issues. This is going to get a lot worse with the impact of climate change and also the water allocation policies proposed by the Ruamāhanga Whaitua Committee. Stored water can help fix the reliability gap.”
Chair of the Wairarapa Water Users Society Leo Vollebregt said the implications of the Whaitua’s recommendations were “massive” for affected farmers.
“Some of them may wonder why they put the infrastructure in for irrigation in the first place. It’ll have a massive impact.”
He said the community needed to come together and seriously consider the problems that came with water shortage.
The Whaitua committee will share their policy package, including river and lake management, managing land and discharges, and water allocation and flows.
*Tuesday, May 1, 6.30pm: Kiwi Hall, Featherston
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