Auckland siphoning Waikato's future

JAMES HOUGHTON
Last updated 13:44 04/02/2014
Waikato River
Fairfax NZ
WORRYING: Auckland’s application to take further water from the Waikato River risks depleting the region’s resources, Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president James Houghton says.

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OPINION: Before the Waikato community has been given the chance to consult with its council and set objectives under the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management - Auckland is lining up to take the resource away from them.

The Waikato Regional Council needs to tread carefully on this at the risk of depleting the region's resources as well as the quality of it.

Auckland has long been facing resourcing and infrastructure issues due to its growing population, but why should Waikato lose out as a result? Their application to take a further 200,000 cubic metres of water a day on top of the 150,000 cubic metres it already takes from the Waikato River is worrying for our future.

As this part of the river is already nearly fully allocated for takes, for every cubic metre they take of the river, Waikato businesses and people will have one cubic metre taken off them. I wonder if Auckland will be expected to be answerable to the impact they have on the river or will Waikato ratepayers foot the bill?

I am not concerned with Auckland's preferred option, just what is good for Waikato, and piping a Waikato resource over the hill will take away potential business opportunities. Auckland has other options, such as desalination of salt water, recycling waste water, dams and water towers, but Waikato is their preferred more affordable option.

This option may be easier and more affordable for Auckland, but is it easier and more affordable for Waikato?

If Auckland is expected to grow by 800,000 people in the next 30 years they need to come up with a long-term and sustainable option. They need to be self-sufficient within their community rather than depleting another's resource. In theory, this would just create a domino theory of communities leaning on other communities rather than solving their capacity and resourcing issues themselves. This does not bode well for setting up functional and sustainable cities or regions.

So if Auckland can not cope with the cost and the challenge of infrastructure under the mounting population growth and new businesses - perhaps its time those businesses looked further south where the land, living and resources are much more affordable and accessible to them. It would be interesting to understand how much compassion Auckland has for south of the Bombay's.

The Waikato Regional Council need to think about the big picture here when considering this application.

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Currently, this part of Waikato River is set at a default of 10 per cent of the one-in-5-year low flow (Q5) of water-takes and this is already allocated to Waikato ratepayers.

What Watercare is asking for is a extra 20 per cent of the existing takes, which means, under variation 6 of the District Plan, the council will have to take water away from Waikato businesses to avoid over-allocation. The council needs to do the groundwork on Q5 before they consider this application. Operating on a default percentage, without properly accessing the effects on the ecology of the water, is irresponsible.

Waikato has been told they are to have a say on the value of their water and what they want to happen to it, but to me this water-take application contradicts the National Objectives Framework for Freshwater Management and what it sets out to achieve.

* James Houghton is Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president.

- Waikato Times

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