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Ed Said: Muddy waters have us singing the blues



Like any pimply, hormone riddled teenager, Mangawhai is now having its fair share of growing pains. There’s the dull soreness in the bones that just won’t go away as the town stretches achingly into new shapes and sizes of what will eventually become its future self. It’s as if one day Mangawhai woke up and, dopey and dishevelled, looked in the mirror, and to its horror discovered it was growing boobs. And something weird is definitely going on ‘down there’. Mangawhai is looking hesitatingly inside the waistband of its metaphorical trousers and discovering there’s a few issues, front and back. Our water works and waste are definitely needing some attention.

Mangawhai’s issues with water shortages have been well documented over the last few years. A growing population, relying on tank water, has meant an insatiable demand for refills when rainfall doesn’t do the job naturally. But it’s not just those on tank water who are affected. Even those on town supply in the district are subject to restrictions in drought seasons as dam levels drop to drastically low levels in places.

The Mangawhai Central development has its own issues when it comes to water provision to satisfy residential and commercial requirements moving forward. Some out-of-the-box thinking could see water piped from the Whangarei district to Mangawhai in the Kaipara district. Wilsons dam, located just north of Ruakaka (and apparently regularly stocked with rainbow and brown trout) could be the answer to our water woes. It’s a bold and forward thinking prospect, explained in detail by Northland Local Democracy reporter Susan Botting on page 11.

There are, however a couple of fishhooks. This is water travelling from one district to another. Who will own, control and maintain the infrastructure? Will existing pipes meet future capacity expectations? And what effect will the Three Waters reform have on the situation? Controversially Whangarei District Council (WDC) was recently the first in the country to pull the plug and provisionally opt out of the Three Waters reforms. Mayor Sheryl Mai quite rightly says she doesn’t have the information she needs to make informed decisions on the reform for her ratepayers.

The Far North, Kaipara, Whangarei and Auckland’s Watercare were a likely combination to create the northernmost Three Waters entity of four covering the country, Entity A, but with WDC pulling out for now, reform progress has gone down the gurgler.

Kaipara mayor Jason Smith says he fully supports the WDC stance, though also said in a recent Newsroom article that data indicated water reforms would enable Kaipara to clear all its debts, but Whangarei opting out has stalled that thinking. Auckland is also talking about opting out, and that would pretty much leave Kaipara on its own.

Said mayor Smith to Newsroom: “The proposed water entity for Auckland and Northland will be the largest of the four, at 1.7 million people. Auckland represents 92 percent of the population... Northland may not even get one seat at the representative group which selects the board of the Entity A, from the three Councils in the north, due to the population differences.”

All of a sudden Kaipara is looking like a very small trout in a very big dam. The bottom line could be that if most councils opt in, then there’s every chance the reforms will be made mandatory anyway.

Mangawhai’s future development doesn’t just rely on water coming in, it also needs to have capacity to deal with what’s going out, and waste water capacity is of equal concern, and one of the Three Waters components. Where it’s all heading we don’t know, but the consequences of growth are having to be faced now by residents. If you haven’t already, check out Julia Wade’s front page story.

Richard Pooley

The Mangawhai Focus is the only 'Mangawhai' community Newspaper and is the paper of choice within the local area.

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