The Northland Regional Council has undertaken limited public notification of 24 applications for new water takes from the Aupōuri aquifer to service proposed avocado orchards at multiple locations between Waihopo, north of Houhora, and Ahipara.

The applications range from a daily maximum volume of 70 cubic metres to 10,735 cubic metres, and annual maximums from 3600 to 1.17 million cubic metres. Collectively they seek daily maximums of 54,886 cubic metres and an annual maximum of 6.2 million cubic metres.

Submissions have been invited from property owners and occupiers between Ngataki and Ahipara who might be adversely affected, if they are currently taking water from a bore or surface water body within that area. Submissions related to trade competition will not be accepted.

Those who do not currently take water may not submit, while those who qualify and wish to do so have until November 1 to lodge a submission.

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The council has advised potential submitters that further information had been required regarding the cumulative effects of the combined applications on both groundwater levels within the aquifer and saline intrusion. Land Water People had been contracted to peer review the applications and the further information requested, to confirm that the potential adverse effects had been adequately addressed.

The applicants had also offered conditions of consent and a groundwater monitoring schedule based on consents granted by the Environment Court for the 17 groundwater takes by the Motutangi-Waiharara Water Users Group (MWWUG) last year.

Based on that information, the council considered that the potential adverse effects of the 24 applications on the environment, including saline intrusion and surface water features such as wetlands, would be no more than minor, but could lower the water level in the aquifer to a point that would adversely affect the ability of some people between Ngataki and Ahipara to take water from existing bores or surface water bodies.

The timing and magnitude of any potential adverse effect would depend upon bore depth and construction, the nature of the surface body from which water was being taken, and the severity of any future drought.

Williamson Water and Land Advisory, which was acting on behalf of 23 of the 24 applicants, had modelled possible worst case groundwater level maps during a one-in-50-year drought.