Heavy rain over the past week means tough level 4 water restrictions have finally been lifted across the entire Far North.
Yesterday level 4 restrictions - allowing only essential indoor water use - were reduced to level 3 in Kaikohe, Kawakawa-Moerewa and Rawene.
That means people connected to those town supplies can now water gardens — not that there's likely to be much call for that right now — and wash cars, buildings and paved areas from a bucket.
The use of hoses and irrigation systems, however, is still banned, as is filling swimming pools.
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• Whangārei water restrictions likely as council prepares to help other regions
Restrictions in Kaitaia dropped to level 3 late last month.
Also yesterday restrictions in Ōpononi and Ōmāpere dropped from level 3 to level 2.
Residents of those towns can now use handheld hoses to water gardens and wash cars, buildings and paved areas. They can also fill swimming pools from the mains supply but a ban on automatic irrigation and sprinkler systems remains.
Far North Mayor John Carter said recent rain has recharged all rivers and streams used to supply raw water to Far North communities.
"Even waterways most seriously impacted by the drought, such as the Wairoro Stream in Kaikohe, are now flowing above minimum levels set by Northland Regional Council."
However, due to the severity and duration of the drought, reduced restrictions would continue until water supplies were secure.
"More rain is forecast, but I'm asking all residents to continue conserving water wherever they can."
Carter said the drought highlighted the natural limits of existing water supplies, especially in Kaikohe and Kaitaia.
In both towns the council had set up supplementary water supplies, with the help of Māori landowners, although Kaikohe's backup supply from Lake Ōmāpere will be used in emergencies only.
Carter said he was grateful to Māori landowners and all Far North people who had reduced water consumption.
The council was now focused, with help from the government, to set up permanent alternative supplies for Kaitaia and Kaikohe.
A groundwater bore at Smoothy Rd in Waimamaku was now operating as a permanent supplementary supply for Opononi and Ōmāpere, which had previously relied solely on the drought-prone Waiotemarama Stream.
At the peak of the drought Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group set up emergency water tanks in Kaitaia, Kaikohe and Rawene in case the towns' taps ran dry entirely, but they were not needed.
Elsewhere in the Far North, Kerikeri-Waipapa, Paihia-Waitangi-Ōpua and Ōkaihau are now at level 2, which means only sprinklers and automatic irrigation systems are banned.
All of Whangārei District is now subject to level 3 restrictions due to low levels in the Whau Valley dam, which is ironic because Whangārei had been supplying water to the Far North at the height of the crisis.
As of yesterday, all water supplies in Kaipara were still subject to the toughest possible level 4 restrictions, but some restrictions are expected to ease in the coming week.