More than 175 jobs are expected to be created during construction of water storage facilities in Northland for which $70 million has been provided through the Provincial Growth Fund.

The balance of $37.5m from PGF was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones in Whangārei yesterday, together with the location of a new water storage site.

Persistent dry conditions have plagued Northland over the years and have prompted the Government to plan for water security in the region by building more dams and other storage facilities using money from the PGF.

Northland's sixth drought since 2009 was declared in Northland in February, followed by low water levels in council-owned dams throughout the region that prompted restrictions.

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Of the $37.5m, Jones said $6m would be used to construct a 750,000cu m dam in Ngawha on land owned by Far North Holdings (FNH) that would employ 175 people.

Work could begin in September after months of technical assessment and the Te Tai Tokerau Water Trust is working through a memorandum of agreement with FNH for use of the land.

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The trust, chaired by former Cabinet minister Murray McCully and includes Dover Samuels as a trustee, will pick up work undertaken by the Northland Regional Council and the Northland Water Steering Group and Advisory Group.

Construction of the new facility at Ngawha was originally expected to start next summer but the ministers hoped the project could be fast-tracked so that contractors and businesses secured jobs post Covid-19.

"Bringing the start date forward by months would also mean an earlier finish date, and earlier access to a secure and reliable water supply for a region that has been hit hard by drought," Jones said.

"We recognise the value of providing more upfront investment to get these projects moving ahead and lift regional productivity significantly in a much shorter time frame."

The new water dam at Ngawha will have one tenth of the capacity of Whau Valley dam (inset) which has a capacity of 1.8 million cu m. Photo / John Stone
The new water dam at Ngawha will have one tenth of the capacity of Whau Valley dam (inset) which has a capacity of 1.8 million cu m. Photo / John Stone

McCully said work on other water storage sites around Northland was far advanced and the trust was having complex discussions with private landowners but the funding announcement meant those works could be brought forward.

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He said the trust was looking at a private-public ownership of the new water storage facilities but the trust may have to initially partner with the Far North District Council to get some projects "over the line".

There were plans, he said, for three dams and a potentially smaller one in the mid-North, and two large ones in Kaipara.

Shane Jones (left), Dover Samuels, Murray McCully, and Winston Peters at the water storage announcement in Whangārei. Photo / Tania Whyte
Shane Jones (left), Dover Samuels, Murray McCully, and Winston Peters at the water storage announcement in Whangārei. Photo / Tania Whyte