February 4, 2020: Wairarapa Times-Age

Call for more consultation with Iwi on WCWSS

More consultation with iwi is needed to progress Wairarapa Water Ltd’s water storage project, a spokesman for Rangitane o Wairarapa says.

Rangitane Tu Mai Ra Trust chairman Jason Kerehi said the iwi had made it clear to Wairarapa Water Ltd that a proper cultural impact assessment needed to be carried out and appropriately resourced.

“The process to date has lacked any credible expertise from a Maori lens and now is the right time to bring that expertise in,” he said.

“The Provincial Growth Fund grant should be used to make that happen.”

He said there had been a “strong outcry” from Wairarapa whanau and hapu about the PGF announcement of $7 million last month for the pre-construction development of a water storage and distribution structure northwest of Masterton [the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme] and the implications it would have on water quantity and quality.

“We need to ask the right questions about what is proposed; what are the impacts, what is important to mana whenua, what are the alternatives, and most importantly what do we want our place to be like for future generations?”

The aim of the project is to create a reservoir about 43 metres high and about 2.5 kilometres by 1.5 kilometres in diameter in a valley, to fill with water taken from the river during periods of high flow.

The construction of the reservoir is estimated to cost from $100 million to $120 million.

If funding is secured, construction is planned to begin in 2023, with a target of being able to provide water by 2026.

“Rangitane want to make it clear that there has been no decision yet to build a dam,” Kerehi said.

“Instead, this [PGF] grant will enable Wairarapa Water Ltd to take the proposal to the next level to see if it stacks up economically, environmentally, socially and culturally.

“If it does, then they will still have to apply for a consent to build.”

Kerehi, who also represents Rangitane on the Wairarapa Economic Development Governance Board, said Rangitane had participated in the investigative phase of the project for the past eight years.

“Up until now the focus has been on whether or not a stored water solution might be economically viable.

“More recently the climate change evidence has seen a need for greater consideration of water resilience as Wairarapa faces the threat of harsher summers and droughts.

“Water is a critical resource and we must get this right.”

Wairarapa Water Ltd chief executive Robyn Wells agreed with the approach being taken by the Rangitane Te Mai Ra Trust in the next phase of the water storage scheme.

“Input from iwi is critical over the next few months as we check that we have understood their already substantial contribution to the Natural Resources Plan process and even more fundamentally in the creation of the Ruamahanga Whaitua Committee Recommendations,” she said.

“The work programme submitted in our application for PGF funding includes a properly resourced cultural impact assessment and we have asked the trust to provide guidance so that it delivers a credible outcome.

“Alongside the cultural impact assessment work, the terms of PGF funding require that we work with iwi to identify specific benefits that could arise through their greater access to water.

“Those discussions need to start too.”

Times-Age

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