Independent Chair, Tukituki Water Security Project
The issues of water security and the health of the Tukituki river, its tributaries and its people are becoming more urgent, given the effects of recent droughts and the impact of climate change in the area.
It's an issue that is top of mind for hapū along the length of the river, and for all of us in the wider Hawke's Bay community.
Recent droughts have hit us all particularly hard, being described as amongst the most extreme in living memory.
Low river flows as a result of these events are also having a negative impact on aquatic life and indigenous biodiversity.
The 2020 summer saw record low flows, and water temperatures in the Tukituki River reaching 29 degrees, with a number of restrictions and bans on water use for both rural and urban water users.
And in the Bridge Pa region, we've recently seen the Paritua and Karewarewa streams run dry.
Water security is something that in our region we can no longer ignore. All of us need to work together to ensure water security for Hawke's Bay, now and into the future.
Over the past 12 months, there has been a fresh look at how to provide improved water security for the region.
This work, particularly from Hawke's Bay Regional Council, is a good start and will likely involve a multi-faceted approach including improved water use efficiency, as well as increased minimum flows supported by the capture and storage of additional water.
What is clear though is that as climate change continues to impact New Zealand, each province will need to address its own key regional pressures.
In Hawke's Bay, one of the key priorities has to be improving the environmental and health outcomes of those reliant on the Tukituki catchment that runs the length of Hawke's Bay.
That is why iwi and local community leaders have recently come together to form a steering group - to oversee the Tukituki Water Security Project that looks at the options for solving those two key issues - water security and restoring the health of the river and its people.
The project itself is a fresh look at the needs of the catchment and a genuine assessment of how this purpose can practically be met using a range of measures, including the potential for water storage.
There aren't any predetermined outcomes and this isn't a re-run of previous water projects. Instead, the project will rescope a strategy for water security with the aim of first addressing climate change and better environmental outcomes.
Other priorities include human health, creating jobs and supporting regional prosperity through higher-paying jobs, diversification of land use, and enabling higher-value food production and processing.
We have engaged advisory firm Lewis Tucker to assess the business case for the Tukituki Water Security Project, and have recently begun talking with the wider Hawke's Bay community to build support.
Our work is at an early stage but from the outset there has been a shared desire and commitment between iwi and community to get it right.
Once there has been wide engagement with the community, we hope to collectively take forward water security for the Tukituki catchment as a key regional priority.
We are confident that this project will go hand in hand with the important work that Hawke's Bay Regional Council is doing to ensure water security for the wider Hawke's Bay region.
It's about each of us doing our part now so that all future generations who live, work and play in Hawke's Bay can benefit.
This work is not about putting one group's interests before another or re-litigating old arguments.
It is about all of us from the river out working together collectively to progress water security in our region.
We look forward to keeping the community updated as we work together to develop a solution that has water security and restoring the health of the river and its people at its heart.
The members of the Tukituki Water Security Project Steering Group are:
Mike Petersen – Tukituki Water Security Project Chair, Waipukurau.
Liz Graham – Chair, Heretaunga Tamatea Settlement Trust.
Alex Walker – Mayor, Central Hawke's Bay.
Hugh Ritchie – Livestock and cropping farmer, Otane.
Ian Walker – Chair, Centralines.
Sarah von Dadelszen – Sheep and beef farmer, Waipukurau.
Sam Robinson – Sheep and beef farmer, Flemington.
Denis Hames – Central Hawke's Bay businessman and recently retired partner Findex CHB.