The water race was established in the early 20th century as a stock water supply for farms north of Masterton which let this area be developed for grazing. It takes water from the Ruamahanga River and transports it to 54 properties via an open, unlined channel. It’s untreated and is only suitable for stock drinking water. In total, the race consists of 25km of channels. It’s separate from other water sources but may be linked to groundwater. It is not intended to be used as an irrigation supply (one property has permission to take a limited amount of water for irrigation). The water take is subject to a Resource Consent granted by the Greater Wellington Regional Council. This consent has expired and the renewal process has been started. However, it’s clear that the renewal won’t be straight forward and is likely to be expensive.
Why are we considering closure now?
There are a lot of changes to how freshwater is managed at a regional and national level. This includes prioritising river health over human activities and fencing fresh water to keep stock out which raises a lot of practical issues and costs for the users of the race. It’s been hard for us to get a consensus from the users of the race, we know a minority want to keep it open while the majority either do not or have stayed silent. In addition, with the land being divided into smaller blocks the race has become difficult to access and maintain, not all users are engaged with the council or meeting their obligations to maintain their sections which compromises the supply to users downstream.
Does this mean the water race will definitely be closed?
No. The purpose of this consultation is to determine whether there is support for closing the Race. The decision on whether or not to close the Race will be made by the council following a public hearing.
What about an alternative supply?
Alternative supplies are not part of this consultation. A number of alternatives do exist, and some people are already using these. Anyone reliant on the water race would need to make their own arrangement in the event that it is closed.
Will MDC provide an alternative if the race is closed?
There is no proposal to do this, and it outside the scope of this proposal. The council is not obligated to provide a supply, but is obligated to consult on the closure of an existing one.
Why do we need a resource consent for the water race?
This is a legal requirement under the Resource Management Act and the Regional Plan. Any use of water needs to comply with these requirements. The Opaki Water Race uses a significant amount of water and as such needs to operate under this legislation.
How is the legislation changing?
Changes from both central and regional government is moving to protect natural water ways from human activity and to prioritise leaving water in the river over extraction and use. This complicates any consent application as we will need to demonstrate how we can comply with these requirements while continuing to operate the race.
How much does the race cost ratepayers?
The costs of operating the water race fall entirely on the properties that are serviced by it, via a targeted rate. No funding is provided from the general rates. This means that the cost per property may vary from year to year depending on the budgeted costs and the property values. Annual costs have ranged from $40K to $62K, depending on the amount of work that has to be carried out during the year. The costs are shared by users based on land value as a proxy for usage, so each property will pay a different amount – the larger the area serviced the higher the share of the costs. An average cost will be in approximately $740 to $1148, but some properties pay considerably more than this. A new consent, plus increased monitoring and compliance costs, may see this increase by 2 to 3 times.
Have your say
Submissions can be made in writing by 4:30pm, Friday 31 July 2020.
Submissions can be sent to;
Masterton District Council
PO Box 44
Attn: Phil Evans
Or emailed to;
Any person or organisation who makes a written submission will be given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing. We will contact anyone who wishes to speak at the hearing after submissions close in early May to confirm the time. Hearings will be held at the Masterton District Council offices on Lincoln Road.
24 June – Adoption of Statement of Proposal
29 June – Publication of Statement of Proposal and opening of consultation process
31 July – Closure of consultation process and preparation of report
TBC – Public hearing of submissions