A Far North group is urging people to turn up to protest against an application in Kaitaia on Monday to take around 2 million cubic metres of water annually from the Aupouri aquifer to nourish the burgeoning avocado industry.
Seventeen companies and individuals including iwi Ngāi Takoto, known collectively as Motutangi Waiharara Water User Group (MWWUG), have applied to the Northland Regional Council for resource consent to irrigate 600 hectares of new avocado orchards on the Aupouri Peninsula.
It is for groundwater takes for horticultural irrigation at Houhora, Motutangi, and Waiharara.
The assessment of effects report from Williamson Water Advisory, requested by MWWUG, was provided to the council in May 2017. The council then contracted an independent groundwater expert, Brydon Hughes, Land Water People (LWP), to undertake a peer review of the WWA report to confirm that it had adequately addressed the potential adverse effects of the combined applications.
Based on the WWA report and the peer review by LWP, the council considers that the
adverse effects of the new groundwater takes on the environment, including saline intrusion and surface water features such as wetlands, will be no more than minor.
The application will be heard by NRC hearing commissioners at Te Ahu, in Kaitaia, over three days.
Karen Nikora-Kerr from the group We Are Water said that, on behalf of the whole community, it was extremely concerned that not only wass "this huge amount of water" unnecessary, but potentially also risked shallow bores and saltwater intrusion to the aquifer, which was a natural water source.
She said the whole application process and the scale of the avocado expansion on the peninsula were mind-boggling.
''To add more insult, some members of the MWWUG went ahead anyway and planted avocado trees in early 2018, still without consent and applied to NRC for 'temporary' water consent, so that they could take water. With no public notification they got it,'' Ms Nikora-Kerr said.
NRC said some growers were taking up to 200 cubic metres each a day to irrigate young trees.
The council gave the growers the option of asking for interim resource consents, to legalise their unlawful water takes. Three applied and got interim consent, while two did not.
But Ms Nikora-Kerr said that approach was not on and she urged people to stand up and be heard on the issue at the hearing on Monday.
''I urge anybody, any community member to stand up, rise up and be heard and make time to come to the hearing inside or outside ... to tell our elected officials that we do count and we want to be heard," she said.
"Let NRC and the hearing commissioners know that you do care about your water supply and that 'the people', your community must come before commercial business, that people come before money. If nothing else come and make a stand for your kids, your mokos and the next generation, for without water there will be no life.''