Persistence has paid off for the residents of the small Whanganui River settlement of Kaiwhaiki with a start this week on a major upgrade of the community's water supply.

At the moment two water tanks on a hill above the houses and marae about 20km north of Whanganui supply the families but the project will see another six tanks put in place along with a filtration plant.

The $300,000 project will give greater surety of water supply for the 40 families who live at Kaiwhaiki.

The water supply has been serving the marae for about 60 years but was in desperate need of an upgrade.


Anton McKay, who is project managing the job for the community, said Kaiwhaiki was the largest living marae on the river "so this project is a major upgrade of our water system".

"A new filtration system will feed from the spring and link with the existing water line to the houses on the marae. The next stage will be replacing that existing pipeline," he said.

The project is getting 85 per cent of funding from the Ministry of Health with the community digging into its own pockets to supply the rest.

"Contributions have come from a number of sources including Atihau Incorporation and Powerco but the community is providing the rest."

He said having a supply improved like this meant the marae had the possibility of growing.

"It just shows that we could handle that if we wanted. But it's part of upgrading our marae and making it easier and better for the next generation."

Excel Mechanical Wanganui has the contract for the project.

Kaumatua Ken Clarke said the project had been a long time coming to fruition.

"Since the discussions began we've had two changes of government and every time that happened it meant we had to go back into negotiations about funding," Mr Clarke said.

"It was certainly identified as a need for the people but given the scale of it, a lot more planning and a lot more finance was needed."

The spring is actually the site of the first flour mill on the Whanganui River but he said even before those times it was a spring significant to his people.

"Funding was always the key issue and given every other community was receiving assistance from their particular council, we were basically told this was on us.

"We wondered how much different we were from any other community. Those were the frustrations we had to deal with," Mr Clarke said.

He said with the emphasis on having safe drinking water they had to be able to have a supply that met those expectations. This project would deliver that.