Wairarapa dam a doubtful environmental investment

Forest & Bird's Wairarapa Branch has expressed concern over plans to subsidise a large water storage scheme with $804,000 of public money.

“Wairarapa already has significant environmental problems from current land use practices. Lake Wairarapa is classed as ‘supertrophic’ and is one of the most polluted shallow coastal lakes in New Zealand. The Ruamahanga River also suffers significant faecal contamination from agricultural and urban areas,” says Forest & Bird’s Wairarapa Conservation Manager, Amelia Geary.

“The great work that has been done with landowners to improve water quality around Lake Wairarapa in particular could be undone by plans to further intensify land use in the upper catchment. Any programmes that lead to land use intensification must have strong environmental constraints to make sure existing water issues are not made worse,” says Ms Geary.

“Prior to the downturn in dairy prices, there were already significant questions about the economic viability of the Wairarapa Water Use Project.”

“It is the intensive dairy operations which are suffering the most right now, so it’s hard to understand why the Government is prepared to spend so much taxpayer money to encourage more of these struggling operations.”

“As Landcorp made clear this week, the model of intensive, environmentally damaging milk production is coming to an end. Smart farmers are investing in value-added models, not further intensification based on expensive irrigation and water storage schemes like this one. The case for flooding significant areas of QEII covenanted land, on behalf of an industry that’s undergoing a major crisis, is questionable to say the least.”

“However the dam project may progress, Forest & Bird is determined to see the region’s environmental standards maintained and improved on.”

“As yet, there has been no genuine community engagement from Greater Wellington Regional Council, and we’ll be watching closely to ensure Wairarapa’s Public Conservation Land and water quality are not put at risk by this project.”