Choice 3: Continuing to lead the investigation of water storage options in Wairarapa

by Charlotte,

Greater Wellington and our partners are exploring options to give greater certainty of water supply to Wairarapa. This programme is called Water Wairarapa. Greater Wellington has led and funded this initiative with assistance from Crown Irrigation Investments Limited (funding to date has been split approximately 50/50). The project started in 2012.

A completed scheme could comprise multiple water storage locations and a distribution network via rivers and piping. It could service each of the towns’ future drinking water needs, provide irrigation support to around 8,000 hectares of productive land (as an initial stage) and could be used to bolster minimum flows, protecting water quality where it is most threatened. Discussions with local iwi, businesses and other interested groups have been ongoing. Upon completion of the feasibility study, a commercial entity could be formed to raise the capital to develop and construct the scheme.

Earlier this year Greater Wellington commissioned a detailed report from NIWA which predicted increasingly severe water shortages in the Wairarapa due to future climate change effects. This will impact water quality and availability in the area.

We have invested a lot of time and funding into this project. We have identified potential sites for water storage, looked at environmental factors such as climate change and assessed land use change that could occur if there was secure water supply. We have also worked with the community to assess where there might be demand for stored water, in both urban and rural locations.

If we are to continue our involvement in this project we need to know the community’s view. There is clearly a need for better water security and availability in Wairarapa – the question is, is leading this a role for Greater Wellington?

Option 3A – our proposal

We’ve provided for additional funding ($200,000 for one year in 2018/19) to continue managing the programme and complete investigations. This is in addition to the existing commitment we have to servicing the debt we incurred to complete earlier stages of the programme, which has costs of approximately $225,000 a year for the 10 years of the plan. The funding for this programme is debt-funded and has a minimal rating impact. The additional funding for investigations is contingent on substantive funding from our partners – primarily the local Wairarapa councils and the Crown, as to succeed this project requires commitment from a range of other organisations.

This investment will enable us to continue working with our partners to establish a management structure for the implementation stages and to complete investigations and feasibility for water storage options. At that stage we can consider whether the project stacks up and how it might be implemented.

Option 3B – the alternative

As an alternative, Greater Wellington could withdraw its programme funding now. This would reduce our funding to the amount required to service the existing debt (approximately $225,000 a year) for the 10 years of the plan. This programme is debt funded and has a minimal rating impact.

The effect of withdrawing ongoing funding is likely to mean that the project stalls, but other organisations (such as water users and the Wairarapa councils) might decide to provide ongoing funding and leadership. As such there is a reasonable risk that the investment that Greater Wellington has already made in the project to identify water storage options and investigate feasibility might not be fully utilised.

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