A Waitangi Tribunal report and recommendations on water ownership have put Māori rights and interests in freshwater firmly back in the public spotlight, just as the Government releases a raft of policy changes.
The Hawkes Bay Regional Council is developing the Ruataniwha water storage scheme, in the Tukituki river catchment, near Waipukurau.
This involves building a 90 million m3 dam which could irrigate 30,000ha. It could also be used to generate electricity.
Petersen can see the catchment from his farm but he wouldn’t benefit from it because he’s in the hill country.
Considering the years of drought such as the present one, the Ruataniwha scheme is what the district needs, he says.
“Frankly a year like this is a graphic example to naysayers of why it needs to happen. We have a district severely impacted by dry conditions. Having a 30,000ha area capable of being watered year-round is going to be a big benefit for the area.”
Petersen says history shows that where you build irrigation the dairy cows soon follow. But there are spin-offs for the wider farming community, he says.
“In this area we’ll see a focus on sheep and
beef finishers and they will see how they can integrate their operations with the irrigation. Remember we’ve got McCains and Heinz in
this part of the world, so there will be benefits for people who want to do cropping as well. It’s a massive opportunity
and dairy hasn’t got it
all its own away in this area.”