Far North drought: Water to be pumped from Lake Ōmāpere into Kaikohe

11:36 am on 6 March 2020

After weeks of drought and severe water shortages in the Far North, relief is on its way.

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Northland has been suffering in drought conditions since early last month. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Water is expected to be pumped from Māori-owned Lake Ōmāpere into Kaikohe sometime today.

Lake Ōmāpere's trusts have been working closely with the Far North District Council to build a 3km pipe, which could soon be pumping up to 1500 cubic litres of water to Kaikohe a day.

Omapere Taraire E and Rangihamama X3A Ahuwhenua Trust chair, Te Tuhi Robust, said it was right thing to do.

"This is a contribution that is the only right thing to do," he said.

"This is a situation where all other things need to be put to the side and we're looking after the health and well-being of our whānau, of which I would say about 90 percent of our shareholders reside in Kaikohe."

Up to $2 million has been allocated from the Provincial Growth Fund to set up temporary water supplies such as this one in Northland.

Lesley, from Redwoods Garden Centre, said businesses like hers were being hit hard.

"People aren't gardening, they're not planting because it's too dry. We've really felt the hit."

But she was not rejoicing over plans for water to be pumped from Lake Ōmāpere.

"How will that affect the ecology of the lake though? Are you going out of the fry pan and into the fire? Are you solving one problem while creating another?"

But Malahi cafe owner Julie said even if more water became available, she would not be using any more than she needed.

"Cafe Malahi is mainly run by marae-based people so conserving water has been our focus along the way, and because I'm a small business I watch every penny," she said.

"But it is a lesson to be learned for the coming years. It's not just this year, it's going to be forever."

The lake's trusts have agreed to have the pipe installed for up to 100 days.

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones said it was not easy getting the operation underway.

But he was pleased an alternative water supply to Kaikohe - albeit temporary - was finally going ahead.

"Historically, Kaikohe did draw its water from Lake Ōmāpere but for reasons however that would defeat both mathematicians and critical scientists, something made them desist from drawing water from a lake next door to the town," he said.

"The local hapū Māori leadership fully appreciate that this is a chance for them to deliver for the broader community."

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