September 2020 Update

During the middle of winter, it’s easy to forget that we had almost 7 months last year with virtually no rain and severe water restrictions. We’ve been working hard on possible alternative supply options, and we will be making submissions to the Mercury Bay Community Board at their next meeting on 30th September.

We are concerned that both Whitianga and the older parts of Wharekaho that are not connected to the town supply could be facing a summer in the near future where there is not enough water to keep our people safe.

Both Community Board and council staff have asked the full council to approve $150,000 to investigate alternative supplies. Unfortunately, this was never turned into a formal resolution, and the idea was squashed by Mayor Goudie, who deferred it to the Long Term Plan (LTP).

There is no doubt that an alternative water supply should be on the LTP; however, we argue that we need to be spending some money on investigating alternatives NOW. If we do that, the preferred option can go into the LTP as an actual targeted strategy with a timeline for getting it started.

If we don’t achieve this, the LTP discussions (which start in January and finish on 30th June 2021) will potentially achieve nothing more than stretching the timeline out before we even start investigating alternatives. Once it gets through the LTP, it’s got to find its way to the Annual Plan.

We think this is urgent, and if we don’t get moving on it, we’ll lose another year at the very least.

So Community Board, or Council, or both, have to find a way to approve an “out of budget” expenditure of $150,000 to get this moving as soon as possible.

We know that there is an amount of $210,000 from the budget approved for the Medical Centre, which is unspent. We know that the Government has given TCDC $2.4 million for the first tranche of our Three Waters Reform allocation. Some of that needs to be spent on this project.

The provision of a budget to investigate water management is not unprecedented. In January this year, the government allocated $1.5 million to five Hawkes Bay councils to investigate setting up an agency to manage drinking, storm and wastewater across the region.

The challenge for us as ratepayers will be to track what happens to the money allocated to TCDC for water reform and make sure it gets used to good effect. We can’t think of a better place to start than right here in Whitianga. We are not undervaluing the needs of other parts of the district; however, Whitianga is particularly vulnerable because so many of us rely completely on reticulated water. There is no “Plan B”. Most of us don’t have tanks, and many of our residents don’t have the space, the budget or the expertise to put a huge water tank in the backyard in the first place.