Independent report reinforces region’s urgent need for water security

Without the Waimea Dam, increased water rationing could cost the Nelson and Tasman region $700 million, a new report released today says.
The report by Northington Partners, an independent investment and corporate advisory business, estimated the total economic impact of water restrictions on water users in the Waimea River catchment area alone, at $231 million. View full report.

The report states that: “Based on the potential for up to 70 percent cuts in current water allocations, the productive irrigable area [in the Waimea Catchment] is estimated to reduce from 3,800 hectares to 705 hectares in a worst case scenario.”

Pierre Gargiulo, General Manager of JS Ewers Limited, knows the impact of water restrictions first-hand. JS Ewers is a family-owned hothouse and market gardening business established 42 years ago. The company supplies fresh produce to consumers throughout New Zealand and is one of the largest employers on the Waimea Plains, with up to 200 staff from Nelson to Motueka.

“We’re on a knife edge when it comes to our water supply. The last three years have been extremely difficult with water restriction implemented as high as 30 percent which has meant we have had to sacrifice crops at a significant cost to the business,” Mr Gargiulo says.

The report was commissioned by Waimea Irrigators Limited (WIL), a group representing water users to advance the funding, technical development and construction of the Waimea Dam. WIL commissioned the report to understand the potential financial and economic impacts to the region if the dam does not proceed.

“Water security and sustainability is the single most important economic development issue in our region and this report puts a number on that,” WIL strategic advisor John Palmer says.

“This is a major regional issue and major regional opportunity which has been carefully researched. There are still a number of hurdles to overcome, but the research shows the Waimea Dam is a very good example of water storage with a whole lot of benefits and virtually no downsides. The analysis also shows that it is a regional investment with benefits to both Nelson City and Tasman region.”

Mr Gargiulo is a supporter of the Waimea Dam and says it is needed for the future of continued employment in horticulture on the plains.

“As a company we’ve invested in further improving water efficiencies and capital investment to ensure we’re at our optimum,” he says. “We need a reliable, clean water supply and with the current rules and imposed restrictions during a dry summer there isn’t sufficient water to meet the needs of growers on the plains.”

Mr Palmer says the report’s message is clear.

“The Waimea Dam is a community-focused solution to water storage and it’s been 12 years in the making. We have enough research, we’ve looked at all options – if this report shows us anything, it’s that it’s time get on and do something,” he says.

“We urgently need a safe and secure water supply for our region and the Waimea Dam will provide that – we can’t afford not to do it.”

– The above press release was produced by Waimea Irrigators Limited