Water Bylaw Review is Underway
A review of the Tararua District Council’s water supply bylaw is one part of a plan to make our district more resilient.
“It was always the intention of Council to initiate a further review of the bylaw following community feedback received at the time of the last review in 2017/2018,” Peter Wimsett, Council’s Manager of Strategy and District Development, said. “Since the last review, the Tararua District has experienced a severe drought which was felt in many places throughout the district (and New Zealand generally) further highlighting how scarce and precious water can be.”
Wimsett said we were fortunate many combined actions got our District through this year’s drought. These included many years of complex major works on large storage for Dannevirke and Woodville, conservation measures by all users (for which Council is very grateful) and emergency access to extra water allocation in Dannevirke. In particular, Woodville had no water source for over two months as the river flow was too little for the Council to draw water from. The town supply was managed solely off the new reservoir Council had recently invested in. These types of issues mean Council must continue to ensure effective, safe and resilient water supply. This is particularly so as the climate changes and is forecast to become drier in the Tararua District and East Coast.
Council staff are now working towards presenting a proposal for review of the bylaw to the Mayor and Councillors, with the work involving identification of issues with water supply in the district.
Among other things, Council staff will be considering public health and safety, water supply connections, ways to better encourage water conservation, increasing private storage or private alternate sources other than town supply (particularly for high users) and managing the environment at all levels including responsibilities to maintain resources for generations to come.
Council will also be investigating alternative supplementary water sources and storage, as well as water restriction measures and defining what “essential use” is during an emergency.
Mr Wimsett said extraordinary water users, who are lifestyle block owners outside town boundaries and those whose supply is metered within the boundary, along with high water users will be notified of the review through a letter drop.
“The bylaw review is just one tool Council has, along with long term planning that sets out our district’s capital projects, the levels of service we provide as a council and in meeting Ministry of Health guidelines. We also have to respond to the establishment of a new “3-Waters” regulatory authority from Government,” he said. “Council needs to look at our water sources and storage while we need our people to look at what they are doing. We will also be considering charging systems, including metering and rating, to determine how we pay for our water and possible incentive systems.
Council is trialling a remote “flow meter sensor” to allow for real-time monitoring of water flow. This will improve Council’s ability to capture data on water supply systems.
For Māori, the spiritual and physical relationship with water is intertwined - both elements are essential for the health of local whānau and hapū. This is also a long-held connection with freshwater. It is living taonga or “treasure” and Māori have a role kaitiaki for freshwater - for its gaurdianship and protection. It is a way of managing the environment at all levels including responsibilities to maintain resources for generations to come, and to conserve and value the freshwater resource.
Mr Wimsett said, “Māori have an important perspective and locally we are all wanting to work together on our water issues.”
Information gathering will take place over the next month from mainly those who are currently metered, those outside the town boundaries and users in Norsewood, Akitio and Pongaroa.
“This will help better understand the issues the bylaw seeks to address, including properties current options to access water (not just town supply), what water is used for or intended to be used for and how much is needed during times of peak and low demand”, Mr Wimsett said.
Further formal consultation with the public on a draft bylaw can be expected to happen later in the year once the Council has worked through the statutory process under the Local Government Act 2002.
Mr Wimsett concludes, “We do thank everyone who played their part as we managed our way through this year’s drought crisis. We now look to the future and options to increase our resilience further.”