March 12, 2020, 7:42 p.m.
The Northland water crisis that continues to put strain on infrastructure and community prompted an appearance from the Government yesterday in the Far North.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrived in Kaitaia yesterday afternoon on a New Zealand Air Force plane and announced a drought relief package to help ease the dire situation for the dry region.
“The rural sector across the North Island is currently doing it tough with significant and sustained drought in many areas. Water is running low across the board - for drinking supplies, the primary sector and firefighting storage - and we will help our communities to get through it,” Ardern said.
The Government announced a package that includes:
$10 million to respond to immediate needs such as delivering water for consumption, sanitation, wastewater systems, stock welfare and horticulture
$421,000 to extend the reach of Rural Assistance Payments – which can be used to buy water
$2 million to support farmers and growers following today’s large-scale drought classification across the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams
This comes on top of $2 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to set up temporary water supplies for Kaitaia and Kaikohe and sits alongside Defence Force deployments to help with essential water resupply through tanker trucks and crew.
Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare said the longer extreme drought conditions continue, the greater the threat to water supplies that are already severely restricted in some places.
“Northland is particularly vulnerable with severe water restrictions already in place, a high number of people on water tanks, and significant areas of deprivation. We must act now to have the systems and support in place to assist communities already stressed by drought conditions and the associated water shortages,’’ Peeni Henare said.
Prime Minister Ardern visited various water infrastructure sites around Kaitaia to see the scope of the drought conditions here in the Far North and observe the initiatives applied by the partnerships between Northland Regional Council, Far North District Council and local Iwi.
Te Rarawa Chair, Haami Piripi said the iwi has long sought a working relationship with local Government that’s often gone nowhere, but now has gained legs.
“Iwi have been trying for a long time now to get into some joint infrastructure and development with councils, to be honest it’s been unsuccessful, this has been the first one that has taken off for us,” said Mr Piripi.
Sustained rain would be needed to break the drought in the upper North Island and no significant rainfall is forecast until May.