Northland Water reservoir opens, bringing jobs, resilience to rohe

By James Perry

Matawii water reservoir, near Kaikohe. Photo/Sentry Tech Youtube

The Matawii reservoir, the first of three water security projects in Northland, has been officially opened today, with Regional Development Minister Kiritapu Allan saying it will boost regional business as well as climate resilience.

A $68 million government investment supported the construction of the reservoir, along with two other water storage and distribution projects being developed by Tai Tokerau Water Trust in Kaipara and the Mid North.

Once the remaining projects are completed, Northland will have the infrastructure and water to develop approximately 7000ha of horticulture, creating more than 500 jobs and $400 million of annual regional output.

“The water storage projects will pump new life into these districts. As a result of the flood-and-drought cycle in Te Tai Tokerau, there needed to be a reliable water source to unlock the potential of the region’s land, which has rich soils and an incredible climate for horticulture,” Allan said.

The reservoir, located in Ngāwha, will store water during peak flows to use during drier periods.

Higher-value crops

When it's full, it will hold 750,000 cubic metres of water, the equivalent of 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools. 

"This project will facilitate a continued transition to higher-value horticulture crops and to increased climate resilience in Northland," Allan said.

“Although this summer was particularly wet, more frequent droughts and more variable rainfall are something we need to plan for to ensure our communities are positioned well for the future."

Allan says water has an integral role in ensuring regional economies are equitable, sustainable and productive, particularly for Māori.

"With many of our regions’ water allocation issues disproportionately affecting Māori landowners, this means the limiting of economic growth is felt disproportionately by Māori.”

The Matawii reservoir was the first project to be approved under the fast-tracking legislation introduced by the government to help with Covid-19 recovery. 

“The site was once a dairy farm and in just a few years, despite the pandemic, the project transformed the land from paddocks to water [reservoir].”

It will supply water to horticulture sites and the nearby Ngawha Innovation and Enterprise Park, due to open shortly. It will also provide a backup water supply for Kaikohe.

The Ngawha Innovation and Enterprise Park, partly funded by $19.5 million in financial support from the government brings together high-value primary sector producers, manufacturing outfits and research and development groups.

Early site holders including Kaikohe Berryfruit and NorthTec/Te Pūkenga.

“Our investment in Kaikohe has been about unlocking and enabling each of these assets so that, together, they can help this region thrive,” Allan said.

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