IrrigationNZ says the government’s decision to invest $800,000 to investigate the development of community water storage in the Wairarapa is good news for the region.
“Developing new water storage will be very important for Wairarapa’s future as it enables the community to be resilient to climate change, to maintain adequate river flows and to be able to supply urban communities and farms with the water they need,” says Elizabeth Soal, IrrigationNZ Chief Executive.
Research undertaken for Wairarapa Water has predicted that by mid-century Wairarapa’s climate will be more like Hawke’s Bay’s climate today and by late this century it will be similar to Northland’s current climate. This climatic change could see lower river and groundwater levels, more evapotranspiration and changes in rainfall patterns.
“Without water storage we will see that river levels will drop which will negatively affect ecosystems, urban communities will be subject to water insecurity and the region would be adversely affected by the drop in agricultural production that would inevitably occur,” says Ms Soal.
“Previous studies have found that with a warmer climate and a secure water source there is the opportunity to diversify land use in the Wairarapa to enable horticultural and viticulture production as well as expanding arable crop growing and lamb finishing.”
“We know only a small percentage of land is suitable for horticulture in New Zealand and there are significant areas which are under pressure from urban expansion so it’s critical that we identify and develop new horticultural land in order to provide Kiwis with a secure supply of local fruit and vegetables,” she adds.
Ms Soal says studies of irrigation development in other regions in New Zealand have shown that it results in higher household incomes, higher regional GDP, a boost in employment figures and that it also has positive social benefits like increased rural school rolls and higher levels of home ownership.
Note: A number of New Zealand studies on the value of irrigation development are available online.