Frequently Asked Questions


What is water security?

This means that as a community we make sure we have water stored somewhere to be available for when it runs out.

How do we get water security?

By harvesting and storing water when it is plentiful, so that it is available when we need it most.

Why does the Wairarapa need water security?

The Wairarapa is at the extreme end of climate change predictions, with significantly hotter temperatures and increase in drought expected in the future, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

How will water storage help the Wairarapa community?

If we have stored water, we can use it when the dry weather hits us each year. It will help the rivers, support towns and businesses, and provide water to farmers so they can grow our food.

Will water storage lead to more dairy cows in the Wairarapa?

No. WWL has a loan from the Government and as part of the loan conditions water cannot be used for further dairy intensification.

What does land-use change mean?

This is when landowners opt to change how they use their land. Many farmers are choosing to do this because of expectations around better land and water management. Wairarapa Water has funded research on how water reliability can help farmers change the way they farm to better meet environmental targets.

Is water storage the only way to get water security?

Ensuring the Wairarapa’s resilience as we face climate change challenges is complex and several options, including possible nature-based ones, are being explored. That is why a Wairarapa Water Resilience Committee for the region has been established, Wairarapa Water is working closely with it.

What are nature-based solutions?

Nature-based solutions refers to the sustainable management and use of nature for tackling socio-environmental challenges. The challenges include issues such as climate change, water security, water pollution, food security, human health, and disaster risk management.

Who is Wairarapa Water?

Wairarapa Water Limited (WWL) is a locally led company with the aim of developing infrastructure-based climate change solutions that contribute to securing a thriving future for the Wairarapa, to benefit its people and environment. WWL is currently working on the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme (WCWSS).

What is the Wakamoekau?

The Wakamoekau Water Storage Scheme (WCWSS) involves construction of a reservoir in the hills north west of Masterton, with a storage capacity equivalent to 7,600 Olympic swimming pools. It is being investigated in detail and is supported by the Government through the Provincial Development Unit. Wakamoekau is about doing water storage in a different way. By different, we mean sustainable water storage that delivers positive outcomes to the whole community. It is about building a vibrant and resilient Wairarapa community for generations to come. In doing so carefully balancing the cultural, social, environmental, and economic needs of our region - where all parts are equally important as the others.

How much will this project cost?

At a high level, the scheme construction costs are estimated to be in the vicinity of $100 million plus development but until scheme design has been finalised, we cannot confirm that cost.

Who will pay for it?

Whilst the ownership structure has yet to be proposed and agreed other water storage schemes in New Zealand have been based on a cooperative model whereby water users purchase shares or water rights, and this determines how much water they are allocated. The final ownership structure will need to ensure that the scheme is fully funded and that ongoing operational costs are met by the water users. Councils (and ratepayers) would not be expected to contribute to the cost of the scheme unless the council is purchasing water for its own use, or unless there was an arrangement based on commercial arrangements such as a loan.

Who is backing this project?

Our project is supported by the Government via the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) and is guided by investment principals to:

  • Strengthen regional economies by shifting to higher value sustainable land uses
  • Address disparities in Māori access to water for land development
  • Support micro to medium-scale water storage projects that strengthen regional partnerships and provide wider public benefits

It is also supported by employers and industry in the Wairarapa as well as landowners. Iwi has indicated support for the process we are going through, and we are sharing project information with them in partnership. Wairarapa Water continues to engage with a wide group of stakeholders on this project.

Why co-funding?

To receive PGF loan funding we have to demonstrate community support via co funding. Co-funding comes from councils, industry, general supporters and landholders. The benefit of landholders providing a small contribution at this early stage is that it informs the early design decisions around distribution and ensures that the project continues to have the confidence and support of Government.

Who will use the water from the Wakamoekau?

As a community scheme it is envisaged that water will be used by the environment; by land owners for agricultural purposes; by local communities to supplement existing council supplies and by local industries where they have a demand for council supplied water which cannot be fully met and is putting their business at risk.

Do they have to pay for it?

Yes. There will be three costs to the water for those who join the scheme: investment in the final stages of the design optimization process and contractor selection; investment in construction and then meeting the ongoing operational costs of delivering the water. The final ownership structure and hence how costs will be determined has yet to be agreed.

Will the scheme deliver water to me?

At the moment the delivery reach of the scheme is not certain and relies on engineering design work and costings to be completed. WWL aims to make water as widely available as possible within the Wairarapa.

Is the Wakamoekau damming a river?

The scheme relies on taking water during periods of high flow from the Waingawa and transporting that water to off river storage. A portion of the Wakamoekau stream will flow into the reservoir and then out the other side of the reservoir so the stream will always continue to flow.

How will the Wakamoekau help our Wairarapa rivers?

The stored water will be released at the right time and with the right amount to ensure that downstream rivers can remain healthy, sustain their ecosystems and can be enjoyed for all the things we value our waterways for - this will be particularly important when our rivers run so dry in summer.

There is a specific amount of water to be held in the reservoir which has been specifically kept aside for the rivers, to protect them. This is called ‘environmental allocation’. During times of drought when we see rivers drying up the rivers suffer, the scheme will always be required to continue environmental allocations, which will encourage better river health.

Will the Wakamoekau cause flooding downstream?

Releases from the reservoir will be during times of water need which will occur when water is required so not in surplus on the river.

What happens to this reservoir if there is an earthquake?

Nothing will be built or developed until a full review of all risks has been done. This project is about securing a thriving future for the Wairarapa, not putting its people, landscapes, or creatures in danger. Global engineering and design firm, GHD has been selected as the design consultant on this project. The engineers will carry out a Site-Specific Seismic Assessment and a dam break assessment to inform what can be built.

The NZ standards around dam safety are stringent and any reservoir must comply fully with strict dam safety guidelines. This includes a formal peer review of the investigation, design and construction by an independent engineer with a sound background of experience in the type of dam being designed and constructed.

What will happen to the rivers if we take the water from them for the Wakamoekau?

The Wakamoekau will not harm the rivers surrounding it. It will only utilise excess water from the Waingawa River and Wakamoekau Stream. Boffa Miskell are our project ecologists and have completed the baseline ecological field survey. This work will form the Ecological Values Report which is a key component to the Assessment of Environmental Effects for the resource consent applications. The surveys included fish, water flow and quality, aquatic macroinvertebrates, stream habitat, lizard habitat, terrestrial vegetation, birds, and wetlands at the storage reservoir site, Lower Mikimiki, Wakamoekau Creek and Black Creek sites. While this work is in its early stages, our approach will be to err on the side of caution. We will work with experts and agencies to ensure we manage any biodiversity or other potential topics appropriately.

How will Iwi benefit from this project?

We are currently working closely with Wairarapa Iwi to ensure they have every opportunity to determine how they benefit from this project. As part of the consent for this project, a Cultural Impacts Assessment will also be completed.

How is WWL working to the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?

WWL is committed to working in Partnership with Iwi. This means an obligation to act reasonably, honourably and in good faith from the principles of reciprocity and mutual benefit. Specifically, a duty to make informed decisions, a commitment to a genuine effort to work out agreements of issues between us, to owe each other cooperation, and a duty to consult.

Will the storage reservoir run out of water and how often?

The aim of the project is to deliver reliable water to users. Extensive work is currently taking place which will look to reinforce the initial work done which indicates the reservoir will fill and be able to deliver water to a reliability of greater than 90% on a volumetric basis. The additional work will involve modelling around rainfall patterns and infill data. The reservoir will be filled through pumping from the Waingawa River over the winter months and collecting flows from the Wakamoekau Stream and if required and suitable, possibly the Black Creek and Mikimiki catchments as well.

What happens if the scheme does not proceed?

WWL is committed to thoroughly exploring this scheme to determine firstly if it can be engineered and built, secondly if it can be fully consented and thirdly if it can be constructed and operated in an economic manner which adds value to the community, landholders and other water users. If one or more of the above objectives cannot be satisfied then WWL would advise the government, councils and landholders of this decision. The contribution of $25 per hectare plus GST would not be refunded as it would have been expended to co-fund the investigations.