New Zealand First’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) initiative is looking at investing in water storage in the Northland region, to improve reliability of water supply and increase horticulture earnings. The fund could invest up to $18.5 million to help investigate and – if feasible – construct a community-scale water storage and use options in Kaipara and the Mid-North.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says this project is the largest PGF investment to date in water storage. The proposal was backed because of the "real opportunities that ensuring a more reliable water supply could bring to the region – up to $150m in increased horticulture earnings per year and up to 1150 jobs created."
Northland has relatively high rainfall, but a lack of storage means it can’t be harvested for use in summer and during droughts that have affected the region in the past. In addition, only a small portion of the region is irrigated, and most of it for horticulture.
"The region is vulnerable to droughts to floods, so better access to water will give landowners greater options to use their land, develop new markets and maintain and grow a skilled workforce," says Minister Jones.
This project is likely to deliver similar benefits as the development of water storage in Kerikeri in the 1980s, which an impact assessment found that after 30 years it had created 1,300 additional jobs and was adding $106 million per year to the Northland economy. Six and a half percent of all jobs in the Far North District are due to the Kerikeri scheme’s operations.