Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 17 August 2017

Meeting our vital needs - Moving Forward Together

Thirty-eight years is a long time to wait for something that is vital to life, but that is how long the people of Omanaia have been lobbying government for safe drinking water.

The small Hokianga community is the only community in the District to receive an untreated water supply from the Far North District Council. This unacceptable situation is set to change. The Council last Thursday gave the go-ahead for a $2.2 million upgrade of its Rawene-Omanaia water supply.

The new water treatment plant will provide Omanaia with water that meets New Zealand Drinking Water Standards. It will also remove a health risk this vulnerable community has lived with for decades.

This is progress for Ngati Kaharau and Ngati Hau who currently have to boil their water before using it. I am pleased the Council has finally delivered justice to this hapu after 11 years of korero and mahi. I would like to apologise for the hardship they have suffered and thank them for working constructively with Council to find a solution to this historic issue.

I particularly want to acknowledge wahine toa Dallas Williams who has provided exemplary leadership on behalf of her people. Others who helped us obtain a $1.87 million Ministry of Health subsidy and make this project a reality include Council staff, Kaikohe-Hokianga Ward councillors Sally Macauley and John Vujcich, Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board Chair Mike Edmonds and Northland District Health Board Drinking Water Facilitator Sonny Nesbit.

I am also pleased the Council was able to fund the new water scheme in a way that minimised costs for Omanaia and Rawene ratepayers. Unfortunately, the Government has withdrawn subsidies for water supply upgrades, so any further upgrades the Council undertakes will need to be funded by ratepayers. This therefore becomes a conversation about what is affordable and how we rate for this.

We also need to be mindful of how climate change might impact the District’s water supplies when we plan new infrastructure. Northland has had four droughts in the last eight years and scientists predict the region will be more drought-prone by the end of the century. Developing new water sources and storage is expensive, so we need to be much more conservation-minded when it comes to how we use water.

I encourage water users to visit our Be Waterwise website for water conservation tips before summer arrives. I also encourage ratepayers and residents to have their say on how we fund vital infrastructure when we consult on our Long Term Plan 2018-28 early next year.



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