With the general election approaching, Hawke's Bay will be in the political spotlight over the region's handling of water management issues, says a Massey University politics lecturer.

Speaking at last night's Future New Zealand symposium in Havelock North, Richard Shaw said other parts of the country would be watching the ramifications of a draft decision handed down a fortnight ago by the board of inquiry considering the Ruataniwha dam and irrigation scheme proposal.

Aside from granting consent for the scheme, proposed as an irrigation solution for Central Hawke's Bay, the board's draft decision sets out environmental and water management conditions for the Tukituki catchment.

It will have a significant effect on farming and agricultural practices in the catchment and has started a debate over whether the board has come down too strongly in favour of the environment at the expense of economic activity in the region.


Dr Shaw, associate head of the School of People, Environment and Planning, and a member of the Politics Programme, said the decision comes at a time when water management issues are becoming an increasingly important social and political topic, both in New Zealand and internationally.

Internationally, there were growing conflicts over scarce resources including water.

Hawke's Bay had comparably low levels of rainfall which was forecast to decrease further over time and water security problems were predicted to intensify over the next two decades.

"The politics that are being raised around the debate about the use of water that are canvassed in that board of inquiry draft report are issues that are going to concern, in very short orders, other parts of provincial New Zealand and the political resolution of those issues matters a very great deal," he said.

"The issue that you are dealing with is of national significance in a political sense. The politics of resolution of things that divide us which are being played out in the Bay as we speak are going to be watched by people in other parts of the country. So what happens here at the moment absolutely matters and will continue to on a national level."