Lands are parched, tanks are running low and water carriers are traversing long hours on dusty country roads as Northland’s dry spell continues.
With no significant rainfall since November and with little forecast in the foreseeable future, water is becoming an increasingly sought-after commodity. Tank-holders are having to endure a two week wait before being replenished, and the situation is becoming desperate enough to cause a range of knock-on effects.
People have been caught red-handed filling up 40-litre containers from Molesworth Four Square’s outside tap and a Hakaru resident’s 7000-litre supply was pilfered by well-equipped water thieves while away for a weekend.
Mangawhai’s laundromat is reportedly doing a roaring trade as residents and visitors alike form long queues to use the facilities bore water instead of their own diminishing supplies and grocery stores struggle to keep up with the demand for bottled water. Cancellation of holiday home rentals, causing financial loss for owners may also be imminent.
Bachcare holiday manager, Janice Young, who oversees 50 properties in the area, says so far she has not had to cancel a booking due to a dry tank but may have to if the situation continues.
“We’re fully booked for Auckland Anniversary weekend and Waitangi Day… can’t take the risk of having guests in a bach with limited water,” she says. “I’ve been manager for four years and have never had this issue.”
Young says although the responsibility of supplying water lies with bach owners, holiday makers understand the situation and have responded well, with some bringing their own drinking water supply with them.
“People who booked baches in Mangawhai back as far as June when water definitely wasn’t an issue, are aware of the problem,” she says. “They know that it’s no one’s fault, however it is hard to tell your guests not to flush the toilet unless they have to, following the golden rule of ‘if it’s yellow…”
Desperate residents are also reportedly pumping water from their required fire reserves to their house tanks.
The current dry spell in the Northland region from the Far North to the Bay of islands and down to Mangawhai, is due to low rainfall over December 2016, with rain gauges recording less than half the average rainfall the area usually receives through this period.
Mangawhai’s water is sourced mainly from a locally owned bore, and Wellsford’s Watercare filling station, managed by Auckland Council.
Due to the growing severity of the problem, Kaipara District Council are currently in discussions with Fonterra about the possibility of transporting water from Whangarei reserves into Mangawhai.
Council chief executive Graham Sibery says the council is looking at how to readjust the supply-and-demand imbalance.
“By bringing more water into Mangawhai and loading it into the local carriers tanks, means the carriers would not need to travel to Wellsford to collect water,” he says. “We’re still looking at the logistics. It’s not guaranteed yet but we are hopeful.”
Sibery says although struggling, the community appears to be ‘pulling together’.
“We’ve seen some good co-cooperation from the Four Squares that are selling water at cost price… the community will get themselves through this dry time and the Council is supportive of that.”
DRY: Shades of green are slowly disappearing from Mangawhai’s landscape as rainfall becomes scarce.
“By bringing more water into Mangawhai and loading it into the local carriers tanks, means the carriers would not need to travel to Wellsford to collect water. We’re still looking at the logistics.”
- Graham Sibery, KDC chief executive