A joint taskforce will assemble this week to examine how to head-off a looming water crisis in rural Central Hawke's Bay.
As part of a number of joint initiatives hoping to establish a way to halt or reverse falling water levels, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council and the Central Hawke's Bay District Council will form a task-force to manage water quantity around the Tukituki catchment.
CHB Mayor Alex Walker said it was timely for the taskforce to assemble later this week.
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"The reaction I have had is positive and really appreciative that we as a district council are getting involved and working alongside the regional council on this issue.
"Certainly, timelines from this point are really important because it's not that far away that our farming community make decisions about what plantings they make for the coming season - so there is some urgency for us in this area."
Walker also said the abandoned Ruataniwha dam project, which was halted following a Supreme Court decision not to allow the exchange of Department of Conservation land required for construction, meant a new strategy was needed.
"Up until 15 months ago, Central Hawke's Bay had a long-term strategy for water security and 15 months is not that long ago.
"So, the situation we are in right now is pressured against a regulatory timeframe and that takes time."
The issue was also one that affected more than just farmers.
"The whole community is quite concerned.
"The security of water has impacts on all sorts of people - from the fire brigades in our small communities to the golf club that uses water to irrigate the greens, right through to our residential water use.
"This is something that has the potential to impact all of us."
Regional council chairman Rex Graham said the taskforce would consider "all the issues", adding community involvement would also be important in finding a solution.
"We certainly have an issue with water in Central Hawke's Bay that we need to solve as a community because we can't have a situation where these small communities, quite often with shallow wells or inadequate pumping, run out of water. So, we need to have an arrangement in the community that deals with that and respects that everyone has a right to water."
Graham added that discussions on how to proceed with about 8 "Tranche 2" applications to take water from the catchment should also take place before Christmas.
That water take was allocated by the Board of Inquiry into the failed Ruataniwha Dam but Graham said while legal applications had been received, the council's own science disagreed that there was enough groundwater available.
"That will be a moment in time for Central Hawke's Bay."
Federated Farmers Hawke's Bay president Jim Galloway said the farming community welcomed the task force but also pointed out it also needed to consider issues outside the rural sector.
"All options need to be explored to secure water for all on the Ruataniwha plains. This includes urban, industry and rural. So the task force could be a way forward to achieve this."
In the meantime, existing irrigators expected to see an increase in "ban days" with low flow increases coming in over the next year.
"The low flow increases were packaged with the dam as an alternate water source so surface and some well takes could be decreased or surrendered. Locals are trying to work out plans for extended water bans to be able to feed their animals and keep trees and crops growing which isn't an easy task as economical options are reasonably limited.
"The option of building on farm storage is a long process as it needs detailed planning and consents so will take a long time to install as well as usually needing a winter to fill the dam."