Monday, 29 May 2017 12:14

While Texas has oil, Hawkes Bay has it's water

  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email

When a litre of water cost more than a litre of petrol, the value of every day commodities is really concerning when water is the alexia of all life.

When we are constantly being told that the wars of the future will not be about oil, but water, we as New Zealanders need to get out Act together to protect one of our most assets.

In HB we have, a self-generating water bonanza laying under our very feet and all we are doing is arguing about the rights and wrongs of its ownership and management.

To the people of HB, we have a future opportunity, but if only we can take the affirmative and positive action to do something about it.

It is often claimed that there is lack of water or is this a myth? Do we really have a water problem in HB or do we have a management problem?

As a citizen and rate payer of Hawkes Bay for many years, I believe the main reason for the assumed water quality, storage problems of Hasting’s is not because we have a shortage, not because we have so called young water but due to mismanagement of this resource. This has been proven from the recent report of the Havelock North debacle. The over allocation of resource consents to take water from the sub and confined aquafer is a real concern but why is there no water shortage in Napier?

To solve this problem or as it is now being promoted, that there is a lack of understanding about our water. We were to have a hui, now it’s a symposium. My question is why, when we have the information, the skills and the professional expertise in the HB Regional Council.

For years, the qualified and professional staff of the HBRC have researched and documented and tested of our water resource, and produced the reports like the “Groundwater level changes in the Heretaunga and Ruataniwha Basins from 1994-2014” in 2015 (HBRC Report No. RM15-01-4738.) as is required of them with the mandate under the Resource Management Act.

I suggest you go to the HBRC web site and read this and a one page summary called “Understanding our Aquifer” Both publications are factual, informative and interesting and will perhaps dispel the myth of the so-called water quality and shortage misunderstanding.

The chairman of the HBRC, Rex Graham, is a member of the trio who called for this hui/symposium. When all the above information is freely available, why did he get the facts instead of becoming one on the three musketeers. His involvement is tantamount to nothing more than a vote of no confidence in the very people he has been elected to and paid to lead, the employees of the HBRC? Does he not have the confidence in their abilities to provide the answers instead of out of town experts at a symposium? What a waste of rate payer’s money and time. If this being the case should he not resign as the chairman?

There has been a lot of comment about the Chinese bottling plant at the Tomoana site. What is not so well known is that this is also 50% owned by a HB family but very little has said about the fact that Heinz Watties is owned by Americans, the Pan Pac Mill by the Japanese, many of the grape growing companies are owned by off shore interests or that the Russian multi-millionaire now owns the Waiwera springs and exports this water resource.

Add to this the plans that are in place by corporate investors to take water from the George river on fringe of Fiordland, to pipe it 12 kilometres and to then load it onto ships in bulk, off shore for export. This is commercially reality and while our NZ laws allow it to happen, it will continue to happen.

The fresh water supplies of England are now not owned by the English, but by the German and the French conglomerates who sub lease and the right to fish in the rivers.Could this happen to NZ? Have we as NZers missed the boat? We will, if action is not taken sooner than later. If we don’t get this sorted quickly, we are in danger of going the same way as England, we will lose control of one of our most valuable resources, water, something that most of us take for granted.

Over the last 20 years I have watched and observed the water debate, so here is a lay man’s take on this issue.

It’s been interesting to watch and read about the Dam issue, the sorrow and multimillion dollar debacle in Havelock north, the sprinkler bans and then to read about the shortage of water in Tikokino and Onga Onga.

To answer this question of water shortage and its quality, let’s start with the end in mind in Hawke Bay and then take a journey from the ranges back to Hawke Bay. There are approximately 43 fresh water springs releasing millions of litres of fresh water into Hawk Bay every day.

This is caused as is a direct result of the hydrostatic pressure (caused by the pressure of the millions of litres of water the lay directly beneath the Ruahine ranges and under the Heretaunga plains in the confined aquifer.

If we journey to the Ruataniwha plains along highway 50 to the Tikokino area, then up the Wakarara road towards the site where the controversial storage dam was to be build, you will see numerous large boom irrigators and wells to feed them.

If there is such a water shortage in this area, why are dairy farmers sinking large bores to run these beasts. Why was an application made to allow 10-12 additional bores to be sunk when there was controversy raging over the need for the dam to store water? Beats me

A number of years ago the HBRC drilled three large bores on the plains to test the age, volume and quality of water. One of these was in the Tikokino, Onga Onga area. The volume of water from this well was so great that it formed its own stream. The Central Hawkes Bay district council (CHGDC) was offered this water this was rejected and the bore was capped. Why then is there a shortage of water in the Tikokino Onga Onga town ships when this bore is available, again, the logic beats me.

During the early 1970s oil exploration and testing was being carried out on the Heretaunga plains. A drilling rig was set up just north of Kereru in the small Poporangi basin. The following was described to me by a neighbour who visited the drilling operation and was told this information by the drilling supervisor.

He explained that data from the seismic tests they had carried out, had identified that there were enormous caverns or cisterns holding trillions of litres of water under the Ruahine ranges. To further verify this that while drilling they had gone down through hundreds of feet of fresh water.

This was further verified by another independent operator who was engaged by a local grape growing company on highway 50 area to identify the best location for a fresh water bore for their business.

Fact or fiction, I don’t think so.

Is this the reason that the Heretaunga plains are full of fresh water springs in places like, the Swamp road area, Ohiti, Ferhill, Raukawa, Waiohiki and the huge rouge bore in Twyford plus others that are running 24/7 and pouring out millions of litres of water that runs into our local rivers.
If you venture up into the Laurence road at the foot of the Kaweka ranges, on the side of the road there is 200 millimetre hole in the side of a bank that runs water 24/7 to feed a small lake.

An Esk valley farmer now generates power from his natural spring and feeds the surplus power into the national grid.

I lived in Meeanee for many years and I had a 50 millimetre (2 inch) on the back lawn. When this was fully turned on, it had and still can shoot a horizontal jet of solid water over 3 meters. This was under its own hydrostatic pressure with no assistance from a pump. Do we have a water shortage problem?

In 1973, I worked at the old Tomoana meat plant. William Nelson did not establish the plant there because it was close to the railway line, it was because of the availability of water.

In January/ February 1973/4, the Hasting City council installed a new sewer pipe from the city to East Clive. When working alongside the Tomoana site the contractors had to sink dozens of 100 mm (4 inch) pipes at 2 meter intervals just to draw off the water to get the pipe into the trench because of the high-water table. Remember, this was February, in the middle of the hottest and driest month of the year in Hawkes Bay. Watties, Birdseye, Fropax peas, Tomoana and Whakatu works, Tuckers Wool scour the Fertilizer works and other wet industries were in full production as well as Clive drawing water for its domestic use. Many of the companies above, don’t exist today.

So, what’s changed? Apart from Progressive Meats and tanneries near the old Tomoana and Whakatu, works there are few wet industries. Add to this the controversial water bottling plant that only takes 0.12% of the total Heretaunga aquifer resource, the question has to be asked, where is all surplus the water going?

This can be partly answered by walking the Ngaroaroa river from the cable at Whana Whana to Maraekakaho on highway 50. If you look carefully you will see all the consented large bores tucked away on river flats that are drawing water for the corporate dairy farms, cropping, sheep farms, grapes etc. It must also be remembered that a large % of the Ngaroaroa water still disappears underground between Maraekakaho and Fernhill.

So how is our water replenished? According to the HBRC information, (available on line) 19.7 billion cubic meters of rain falls in HB each year. Half of this goes straight out to sea and the rest moves through the HB aquifers, that’s nearly 10 billion cubic meters of water that is available for our use. So, do we have a shortage of clean fresh water? We don’t. What we do have is the over allocation and questionable management practices of this precious resource, Hawkes Bays liquid gold?

So, what can or should we do about it?

   1.   All councils to undertake a complete review of the water issue and the HBRC be endorsed to manage the resource as they are mandated to do so.

   2 .  If you can’t beat em, join em. Let’s pick up on the comment by Napier MP Stuart Nash on the 23rd of April last year when he said that over the next 11 years, private businesses can extract more than 40 million cubic litres of water. He floated the idea of charging a premium of 2c a litre. If this happened, Hawke's Bay could make more than $800 million over that time. With this income potential is mind blowing for the future of Hawkes Bay. Why don’t all HB councils combine and form their own water exporting business, this will allow the people of HB to capitalise on its liquid gold for the prosperity of the Bay. We don’t want to become like the UK or wake one morning and find it’s too late.

Locate the plant on the old Hill Country Meat plant site at Awatoto where wells already in place. Why this site, because it’s at the end of the Heretaunga confined aquifer flow and as I said earlier, there are 43 plus fresh water springs that are running freely out at sea.
This would have a negative environmental impact but the huge direct and indirect rewards for the prosperity and future for all the people of Hawkes Bay.

Texas has oil, we have water that now costs more per litre than petrol, think about it.


Gordon Anderson
Napier  26 May 2017