21 November, 2019

Commitment from farmers and water users sought

An invitation for water users to contribute to the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme (WCWSS) signals a significant momentum shift in the development of the project.

The company already has government support to develop the project, through the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), due to its broad community appeal and potential benefits for many sections of the Wairarapa community.

It is the first time in nearly 20 years of water storage investigations in Wairarapa that direct beneficiaries are being asked to make a financial contribution.

Wairarapa Water Limited (WWL) Chief Executive, Robyn Wells, says a commitment from farmers and industrial water users now is critical to unlocking the final funding available in the existing PGF funding agreement.

“We are asking for a Feasibility phase contribution with a combined target threshold of $160,000 of commitments from irrigation and industrial users by December 2019,” Ms Wells says.

The funding target is in addition to $140,000 from the local and regional councils already committed in their Annual Plans.

To ensure project momentum through the remainder of the Feasibility phase and completion of the Consenting and Procurement Phase, Wairarapa Water Ltd has applied for further funds from the PGF that will in time also need to be complemented by equivalent  investment by water users and local authorities.

“It has taken a long time to get to this point, but in recent months the project has gained significant momentum. Depending on the level of funding achieved, consenting and procurement could get underway in the latter half of 2020 with construction starting in 2022,” she says.

It is vital that farmers and industrial water users make their interest known now as it could influence the final design of the scheme, Ms. Wells says.

WWL took over the project from Greater Wellington Regional Council in 2018, and has since concentrated on the Wakamoekau site north-west of Masterton.

The scheme has the potential to address urban, environmental, industrial and food and fibre production security of water supply needs due to climate change pressures and rising environmental standards.

Wairarapa comes out at the extreme end of climate change predictions, according to National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), marked by hotter temperatures, lower rainfall on the valley floor and increased droughts.

“Securing a reliable water source for the future will help address some of the impacts of climate change, create new opportunities for the primary sector and build regional resilience,” Ms Wells says.

WWL is holding a series of meetings with water users this month and in December.

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