While the Provincial Growth Fund has provided $2 million to set up temporary water supplies in Kaikohe and Kaitaia, Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones said he is greatly concerned that there are “issues” in implementing the projects.
The Minister said the immediate solution was to pipe water from a bore on (Te Rarawa's) Sweetwater Farm to Kaitaia, and from Lake Ōmāpere to Kaikohe. However, he lamented how the Far North District Council was having issues gaining access to both water sources, and wished to deliver a "clear message" to Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi.
"If you can't act in a neighbourly fashion to deliver services to your communities, then it is time for the leaders of these iwi to hang up their egotistical spurs and do something else," Minister Jones said.
"The communities will be repelled if mana-munching gets in the way of delivering water to Kaitaia and Kaikohe."
The Minister was aware that some iwi, including te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi, wished to pursue the issue of water ownership in the Court of Appeal, but he assured them that it would be "a thousand years" before he or New Zealand First would transfer ownership to hapū.
"Iwi leadership is more worried about who owns the water than about their hospital, Juken's mill, Ngāwhā prison, the old folks' homes, the households in their communities," he said.
"The irony is that many of the most vulnerable people in these communities are members of these very iwi, whose leaders want to engage in some obscure debate about why hapū should own the water. This is the thinking of a tiny group of leaders who sit on windowless rooms and look at mirrors,” Minister Jones added.
Although the Minister is aware that operations on Sweetwater Farm will be disrupted if the project pushes through, he said measures would be taken to minimise that. He was also aware that Lake Ōmāpere was susceptible to water quality issues, but it would be constantly monitored to ensure it remained healthy.
"These measures will ensure economic activity remains under way in Northland, one of the PGF's surge regions. It also ensures that residents in these communities can continue their lives without significant hardship and disruption," Minister Jones added.