21 Aug 2017

Council puts freeze on Hawke's Bay water consents

3:34 pm on 21 August 2017

Hawke's Bay Regional Council has put a freeze on new water consents for the Heretaunga Plains, saying current groundwater takes are at the limit of what is environmentally acceptable.

The Tukituki River

Tukituki River Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Regional council chair Rex Graham said it was clear at the height of summer more water was being pulled out of the Heretaunga aquifer than its streams and rivers could cope with.

The information has been presented to the community stakeholder TANK Group, which is reviewing the way land and water resources are managed in the Greater Heretaunga and Ahuriri area.

The area encompasses the Tutaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamu catchments ('TANK'), plus the Heretaunga Plains aquifer system.

About 85 percent of Hawke's Bay people live, work, have businesses and grow food for others on the Heretaunga Plains.

Mr Graham said this meant allocating further water appeared to be no longer acceptable.

"What we are saying now is that the evidence demonstrates we should not allow increased volumes to be taken from groundwater, let alone issue new water consents from the Heretaunga Aquifer.

"Options may exist to free up some water for further allocation through greater water-use efficiency or through a storage scheme.

"There may also be scope to allocate more water in the future through augmenting stream flows from groundwater in a manner that reduces the overall environmental impact. All these options are being explored by the TANK Group," he said.

Mr Graham said further HBRC science advice provided to the TANK Group indicates that all groundwater takes from the Heretaunga Aquifer are ultimately connected to surface water flow.

The effect of the takes vary with location, but over time all takes are estimated to have an effect on surface water flows.

"We are all in this together no matter where we are on the Heretaunga Plains," he said.

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