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GDC to reduce water allocation permits

GISBORNE District Council is hoping that it will be able to solve the problem of the heavily over-allocated water supply on the Poverty Bay Flats by gradually reducing the present water permits as they come up for review during the next two years.

That will include reducing the Waipaoa River allocation from 31 million cubic litres to 6.2 while the Makauri Aquifer will drop from 7.5 million to 1.8; the Matokitoki Aquifer from 1.2 million to 620,000; the Te Arai River from 873,000 to 164,000; and the Te Hapara Sands Aquifer from 1.2 million to 295,000.

The council’s environmental and regulatory committee was told by environmental and science manager Lois Easton that all water sources on the Poverty Bay Flats were fully or over allocated. There were a number of paper allocations in which people had a consent for water usage but were not exercising that.

Renewal of the majority of the Makauri Aquifer and Te Hapara Sands would take place in the next 12 months and the majority of the Waipaoa River water permits were due for renewal in June 2019. There were waiting lists for all water sources on the Poverty Bay Flats, she said.

The maximum use for the Waipaoa River between 2012 to 2017 was only 5.1 millions cubic metres, which was below the 2020 target allocation of 6.2 million. The actual use figure for the Makauri and Matokitoki aquifers, the Te Arai River and the Te Hapara Sands were also all below the targeted figure.

The actual use of the Makauri Aquifer was on average less than 15 percent of the allocation. The maximum use in the past five years had been 22 percent.

Ms Easton said there was water available in the B block of the Waipaoa River, which was available when it flowed above 4000 litres per second, which it was on the meeting day. It commonly did so throughout spring and at times in the summer as well.

The aim for the Waipaoa River was to give 95 percent reliability for growers and that was one of the key reasons to reduce the over allocation. Staff had done a lot of work on how to reduce allocations without impacting on the horticulture sector. Nevertheless they were getting feedback that growers were nervous and it was something the council was working on with them. The Waipaoa River was the most important water source and the district was in the midst of a horticulture boom.

“We are working quite hard to see how we can free up water as quickly as possible,” she said.

Under the freshwater plan, the council now had water metering requirements. It had five years of “very good” water meter data that was giving an understanding of how much water growers were using.

The council’s aim was to reduce the consented allocation, not cut the amount of water growers were using. We are trying to be very fair about this. We are very aware that this is what is driving the economy of horticulture on the Poverty Bay Flats.”

One of the biggest issues was that a number of growers had not used any water in the past five years during which there were two droughts.

“If a grower had not used any water they would need to have a very persuasive case to get a consent renewal."

One of the greatest concerns from growers was there was no provision for increased use. If they wanted to increase their irrigated area they would have to go on the waiting list. They could not bank the water in their allocation. There were no easy answers to that.

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