A $12.7 million boost for water storage in Northland will help revolutionise surrounding communities beyond belief according to Shaun Clarke, Far North District Council chief executive.
His comments come as Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones yesterday announced a $12.7 million top-up to last year's $18.5m Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) funding the North through Northland Regional Council (NRC) to progress water storage projects around Kaikohe and Kaipara at a meeting in Dargaville.
That makes a total of $31.2m for the projects.
Clarke said the many positive effects of the PGF spending would ripple through communities in ways that could barely be imagined.
"It's indisputably useful for farmers, community and industry in general," Clarke said.
As a rare light drizzle briefly appeared in an increasingly parched Kaipara, Peters said the Government's PGF funding announced for water storage would provide up to $12.745m to make Northland more resilient in the face of extreme weather.
"Water is critical for Northland's economy and wellbeing but is increasingly under threat from floods and drought, declining rainfall and river flows and rising temperatures," Peters said.
"There are also increased demands on water resources from a growing population and economy.
The Northland water storage and use project through NRC has identified about 6300ha of potential land, some of which may be suitable for conversion to high-value horticulture in Kaipara as part of a water supply scheme, another 1600ha south of Kaikohe and 1700ha to the west of Lake Omapere near Kaikohe.
NRC drop-in days will be held in Dargaville and Ohaeawai on February 18 and 19 respectively to discuss the project and its horticultural opportunities.
"We're now providing additional funding to enable water storage projects in both regions [Mid North and Kaipara] to progress to construction," Jones told about 50 people including local government leaders, tangata whenua, industry specialists, farmers and other primary sector representatives.
Kaipara Mayor Justin Smith said the water storage funding boost was great news for Kaipara and the North.
The PGF water storage announcement also included another $745,000 specifically for Kaipara's Kai for Kaipara project, which aims to produce food suited to the new growing conditions resulting from climate change.
The latest PGF funding for this project is towards development of smaller-scale on-farm pilot water storage to model what's possible, in turn boosting investor confidence and local landowner uptake.
Kai for Kaipara money brings PGF funding for the project to $1.7m.
Georgina Connelly (Ngati Whatua), Te Uri o Hau Settlement Trust chair from Kaiwaka, reacted positively to today's funding announcement. Its benefits would benefit tangata whenua and the wider community. These would be local employment opportunities.
Oturei Marae chair and farmer Dennis Te Tuhi said any opportunity to transition to a higher-value land use would bring benefits for both landowners and the wider community.
Penny Smart NRC chair, said the announcement underscored the Government's confidence in the Northland water storage and use project and the region.
"This round of PGF funding will increase our ability to deliver vital infrastructure for the region – it's the backing needed to forge ahead with plans to collect, store and distribute water in such a way that there will be minimal impact on the environment," Smart said.
While primarily aimed at storing water for horticulture, it could also provide a valuable supply of water for municipal supplies, should district councils wish to invest.
"This would be very helpful right now when the region is teetering on the edge of full-blown drought," Smart said.
"Through this initiative Northland will be able to store water during peak flow times to use during dry periods.
Yesterday the Government also announced $4.95m of PGF funding for the Kaipara Harbour Wharves project.