The Far North District Council has commissioned further testing of its chosen bore field at Sweetwater, in the expectation that it will provide a high-quality source of water for Kaitaia, but says the taps could be running within the next 12 months.
Mayor Wayne Brown said the Northland Regional Council required reports from aquifer engineers and pressure test results before it granted a resource consent. "Various locals" had expressed concerns over those tests (which the Northland Age understands saw some existing aquifer users lose their water), which were carried out under the aegis of the NRC, however, and the district council had agreed to further testing.
The impact of that, Mr Brown said, would be to advance the project.
The council announced last week that it had reached agreement in principle with land owner Tony Hayward to buy a four-hectare site near Awanui as a bore field. The purchase price of $300,000 would include the business and infrastructure already established by Mr Hayward as part of an earlier agreement, which would have seen him develop the bore field and sell the raw water to the council.
Valuations were being prepared to complete the land subdivision under the Public Works Act to enable the title to be transferred to the Council. In the meantime, work had begun on the design of the bore field to establish what additional bores might be required.
General manager for infrastructure and asset management David Penny said preliminary trials had fully met expectations, but the council had to be absolutely sure that the draw-off to meet Kaitaia's requirements was sustainable, and would not unduly impact on other users of the Sweetwater aquifer.
"Once that has been done, the final step will be to construct a pipeline to take the water to Kaitaia. The whole project is expected to be completed within 12 months," he said.
As of mid-July the project had cost the council $2.3 million, including aquifer tests, engineering studies, legal fees, the resource consent and easements. That figure did not include the $300,0000 to be paid for the site. The total cost to the operational stage was expected to be between $5 million and $6 million, depending on tender prices.
Operational (treatment) costs were expected to be lower than currently because of the substantially higher quality of the raw water.
Mr Penny said the advantage of a council-owned and -operated facility over a public/private partnership arrangement, as originally anticipated, was expected to be a cash saving of more than $6 million over the next 18 years.
The alternatives included continuing with the partnership arrangement - which may have involved longer delays and would be more costly - or buying other land on which to establish a bore field, which carried the risk of higher initial costs. That would also have required new resource consents.
Easements had been secured for the pipeline, and all previous commitments made with land owners along the route would be honoured.
"This has been about providing a high-quality, sustainable and affordable water supply for Kaitaia for the foreseeable future without the frustrations of water restrictions, as experienced in 2010 and again earlier this year," Mr Penny added.
"We are also looking at options to make non-potable water available to high-volume users from the existing dam, which has been limited as a back-up resource because of its propensity to develop toxic algae blooms."
Mr Brown said he had been roundly criticised by regional councillor Ian Walker three years ago for lacking the vision to find an alternative water supply for Kaitaia during very dry weather. He, like others before him, had been relying on assurances that Kaitaia's dam was suitable, only to find it was prone to algal blooms at the very time it was needed.
Under his leadership the council had addressed the problem.
"Interestingly, the aero magnetic survey of Northland for minerals had the helpful by-product of better information about aquifers and geothermal fields, so Sweetwater and extensions to Ngawha have been helped by this information," he added.