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Aquifer trial – why delay?

THE Makauri aquifer recharge pilot trial needs to start immediately, Gisborne District Council was told yesterday — but it is not likely to go ahead next winter.

Strong calls for the trial to go ahead faster were made by councillors after they listened to LeaderBrand’s chief technical director Dr Stuart Davis, who told them some crops had been already moved out of Gisborne because of the lack of water for irrigation — and others might follow. Dr Davis said all major water sources were fully allocated and council staff had estimated that the Makauri aquifer would have to be cut back to 65 percent of the current actual use.

“Doing nothing is not an option. Why delay another year?”

Risk in delayThere was a risk in delaying in that grants worth $450,000 from the Ministry of Primary Industries and Eastland Community Trust could be lost. Gisborne had been the first off the block with this project.

“While you guys are not making any decision, other people are,” he said.

LeaderBrand had already moved some of its crops out of the district. Since then it had moved squash, lettuce and broccoli both north and south.

“I am sure there are other businesses in town that are having to face those same decisions.”

The value of the four main horticulture crops to Gisborne was $90 million and they provided 1100 jobs. There were some potential post-harvest operations.

This was not a new problem. He showed a cutting from The Gisborne Herald from 1993 and said he hoped they would not still be discussing this in another 19 years. There were no options. Building dams would have their own environmental problems.

The cost of water from the aquifer would be considerably less than people would have to pay for water from the Ruataniwha Dam proposed for Hawke’s Bay or any of the other schemes around the country. There had been three reports showing the aquifer was declining.

“Those people who measure their bores know it is declining.”

This was a blind aquifer. If you put water down there, you could get it back. Zespri and major retailers would not allow the use of recycled water. All the people involved in the trial were locals. They had no interest in polluting the water they used.

”There is no way we are going to take a wild punt on this.’

Later in the meeting Pat Seymour said a huge amount of work on the trial had been done by competent people. The resource consent process would bring out any other issues that needed to be reviewed.

'Water is important, jobs are important'“I really do think we should give that project the go ahead at the beginning of 2016. If we don’t start the process it is never going to get off the ground. It has been talked about for at least three years. Water is really important, jobs are important and we want to keep young people here.”

Chief executive Judy Campbell said the staff were going through a consultative process. It was not correct to say the project had been delayed. Funding had been obtained and a resource consent was about to be launched. She did not want to have people marching to the council saying they had not been consulted.

Environment and regulatory manager Kevin Strongman said it was planned to put in the resource consent application in March and April. Roger Haisman said the trial needed to happen in the winter of 2016. Mr Strongman said they would struggle to make that even now. There was not much likelihood of them having water this winter. Mr Haisman said the rural community had been fully consulted and they thought it was a great idea.

“If a few people in the Matokitoki Valley or Wainui are not happy about it, well I could not give two stuffs.”

The water that was going to be put into the aquifer was far better quality than the water that was already down there.

Mayor Meng Foon said the message was clear but the council should back the chief executive and the method she was following.