Wairarapa Water has secured a $7 million investment from the government's provincial growth fund to help pay for the development before construction starts on new storage near Masterton in the next couple of years.

The planned water storage at Wakamoekau north-west of Masterton had already received $800,000 from the fund to pay for initial community engagement, consent planning and further fundraising.

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Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau yesterday announced the next tranche of funding for the development, saying it will pay for procurement, consenting, planning, engagement, and commercialising the community-based storage and infrastructure.


"Once finished, this project will provide a resilient freshwater supply for the area, leading to many benefits, such as providing support to sustainable agriculture and horticulture industries, and help fill domestic demand for freshwater during dry seasons," Tabuteau said.

The project seeks to provide up to 18 million cubic metres of stored water and has the support of local iwi, the three Wairarapa councils and Greater Wellington.

In November, Wairarapa Water sought commitments from farmers and industrial water users to support the feasibility phase, saying the project gained significant momentum last year.

Chair Tim Lusk yesterday said the government's latest support put the project in a strong financial position, and it can now complete feasibility studies, lodge resource consent and prepare for construction.

"This very considerable funding by the PGF means we can now engage comprehensively with landowners, iwi, councils, businesses and the wider community, knowing we have the means to conclude together just what it must look and operate like before we move into construction, which, all going well, will be in 2023," Lusk said.

"The target must be stored water available in 2026."

Water resilience is a key component of the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy, that focuses on community resilience rather than simply rural irrigation.

Masterton District Council's 2019 pre-election report said water and its management was a big challenge facing the district over the next two decades and that it had allocated $5.6 million in 2023-2025 to build more water storage. Improving that resilience was also seen as a key response to climate change.


The Labour-led coalition canned government support for large-scale irrigation schemes, preferring small-scale, locally-run and environmentally sustainable storage schemes.

The government's plans for environmental regulation has been a major concern in the agricultural sector, coming at a time when banks are tightening up their criteria for lending to farmers.

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president William Beetham, who is also on the governance group for the economic development strategy, said the fund's investment was a welcome signal to the rest of the country.

"This is about water security and growth enhancement for the entire community, not just agriculture and horticulture," Beetham said.

"It's sprung from a realisation that if we don't have improved water supply, some of our biggest companies and employers are under threat going forward."

Tabuteau also flagged a $110,000 allocation to the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency to produce a Wairarapa water resilience strategy, with a particular focus on climate change.

"Significant work has been done on individual components of the supply, storage and use of water in Wairarapa but this work has not previously been brought together into a comprehensive plan through a broad resilience lens," he said.

"Business as usual is no longer an option to address the single most important need facing the region."

- BusinessDesk