Northland drought: Iwi to divert farm water to support town supply

3:22 pm on 24 February 2020

Northland iwi Te Rarawa and Ngāi Takoto are on stand-by to supply water to drought-stricken towns, including Kaikohe and Kaitaia.

Northland drought, Kaikohe area

Dry patches of land in Kaikohe. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

The water will be sourced from an aquifer which runs through the iwi-owned farm, Sweetwater.

Once a 4km pipe is installed, up to 2700 cubic metres of water will be pumped from the aquifer a day.

Te Rarawa Asset Holding Company chair June McCabe said she reached out to Far North Mayor John Carter in early February about the solution.

"We came to the view that we can actually solve this immediate crisis by diverting water from our farm operation," she said.

"Once I knew that we actually could do that, and actually get it to the town water supply, I called the mayor and said we had a solution.

"He was stoked and he immediately got one of their specialist people on the case, he phoned me, and from that point until last week we technically had to get the solution right."

The installation of the pipeline is expected to be finished within the next two weeks.

The council will then monitor and determine the volume of water which will flow through.

McCabe said the iwi would be compensated up to $800,000 for business disruption to the farm.

"We have to cope with that diversion of water, so we've allowed up to a hundred days. The costing we have provided to council is the cost it will take for us to move things around," she said.

"That means we've had to think about alternative feed for the cows and we've worked out daily figures for that."

She said Te Rarawa wanted to work with the council more in the future.

"To the council we are saying, get us to the table, and see us in the true sense of a treaty partnership and we can do a lot more together than we have ever done," she said.

"I don't know that we are taken seriously. Possibly we're seen as quite challenging to know how to engage with, and that could be something we could look at.

"Our engagement with the council needs to be at times when it is not just a crisis, we should be engaged with a lot more."

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