Praise for drought work

By Mike Dinsdale

Whangarei's water supply is moving towards being virtually drought-proof after the district survived this summer's big dry with no significant issues on water supplies across the region.

A drought was declared in Northland in February, with the region having its driest summer for almost 60 years.

But Whangarei District Councillors heard this week that the district's water supplies came through the big dry "very well", but acknowledged that further work was needed to add resilience to the supply network.

This summer's drought followed one in the summer of 2010/11 that led to water restrictions being imposed in Whangarei. Since then the council had constructed a pipeline from Hatea River to the Whau Valley Dam to transfer water from the river if needed. As well, the Wilsons Dam at Ruakaka is fully operational.

The council's group manager infrastructure and services Simon Weston told Wednesday's infrastructure and services committee meeting that the local authority's long-term water supply policy was paying dividends.

"We can congratulate ourselves with the water supply policy providing a robust system for the district."

Councillor Brian McLachlan said constructing the pipeline from Hatea had been a big help, but warned that climate change predictions are that the country could be in line for more droughts.

Cr Shelley Deeming said the result was a wonderful example of forward planning working well to prevent an issue.

"A lot of work has gone into ensuring we have plenty of water in our district, it's a real credit to our staff and Simon Weston in particular," she said.

Cr Crichton Christie said the council could not afford to be complacent.

"The places we get our water from have to be planned for 50 years ahead and if we don't keep planning ahead for 50 years we will be struggling.

"Wilson's Dam was planned 20-30 years before we built the dam, and we have to look that far ahead for dam sites only."

The council also holds a resource consent to use the Wairua River during times of serious drought, with a plant to treat water from the river due to start in 2016.


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