Rangitāne o Wairarapa concerned about impact of large scale community reservoir

By Te Ao - Māori News
Photo credit / Wairarapa Water Limited

Wairarapa iwi Rangitāne o Wairarapa is raising concerns about a large scale water storage project in the rohe.

The iwi says that since January they have raised concerns about the environmental, cultural and economic impact of the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme, a community reservoir in the hills above Masterton, proposed by Wairarapa Water Limited.

“This is a significant project that will have lasting impacts for our future generations and creates huge environmental change. We need to do due diligence to understand the full picture before we, as an iwi, can decide whether to partner with this project,” Tiraumaera Te Tau, chair of Rangitāne o Wairarapa, said in a statement.

The iwi says it is also concerned about what it describes as "continued misinformation" by Wairarapa Water to its stakeholders during field trips and forums.

“Wairarapa Water has stated there will be zero impacts to the rest of our rivers and lakes and told us that if we don’t capture water it will be lost to the sea. However, this information is factually incorrect, not just with mātauranga Māori but also from science,” Deputy chair, Amber Craig, also said in the iwi's statement.

Rangitāne o Wairarapa has proposed a way forward which includes undertaking a cultural impact assessment, however, the iwi says this has been dismissed by Wairarapa Water.

“Instead of working with us to do the research needed to ensure this is the best approach for our communities, our environment and our economy, Wairarapa Water have said we need to simply approve of a prescribed methodology for a cultural impact assessment by December 2020, which it would be irresponsible of us to do,” said Craig. 

The iwi says they have a responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the waterways.

“Our kaumātua tell us that Rangitāne people historically had pā sites alongside the Wakamoekau river. Our rivers are wāhi tapu for us. We have been here for many generations and we will continue to be here for many generations to come. Our whānau are the descendants of the people who lived here and we have a responsibility to them and our future generations to ensure these places flourish,” said Te Tau.

Wairarapa Water Limited (WWL) were approached for comment and in a statement told Te Ao they are "committed to working in partnership with iwi".

"Much of the project’s time and focus this year has gone into listening and talking to the community to understand concerns and incorporate aspirations for the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme (WCWSS)," WWL chief executive Robyn Wells said.

"Kahungunu ki Wairarapa has completed a Cultural Impacts Assessment (CIA) for the project, funded by WWL.

"WWL believes a solution with Rangitāne o Wairarapa is still possible and will continue to make significant efforts toward attaining a CIA from Rangitāne o Wairarapa that is acceptable to both parties."

Wells said it was important that the community project is endorsed by the community.

"We have consistently and publicly said that the WCWSS is not the only solution for managing water resources in the catchment, but it is one that has been investigated in detail for almost 20 years, has gained wide support as a community-based water security solution with multiple benefits, and has financial backing from a variety of sources including from central and local Government."