CIF Project - Waipaoa Catchment Water Strategy - 1 & 2

Grant No: 09/10 & 10/03

Last updated: October 2011

Contact details

Name of Applicant Group: Gisborne District Council
Contact person: Yvette Kinsella
Address: PO Box 747, Gisborne 4040
Telephone: 06 867 2049 ext 8795
Email: yvette@gdc.govt.nz

Project details

Status: Finished
CIF funding: Stage 1 $25,330; Stage 2 $50,000
Proposed start date: 2009-07
Proposed finish date: 2012-06
Region: Gisborne

Project description

The Waipaoa Catchment Water Strategy aims at developing a strategy to integrate future water demand from within the Waipaoa River Catchment to ensure sustainable management of this resource in terms of social, cultural, economic and environmental values. Stage 1 of the strategy focuses on researching the surface and groundwater resources of the Waipaoa River to provide robust information for future integrated decision making for water use, both for municipal supply and irrigation takes for cropping and permanent horticulture.

Stage 2 is envisaged to investigate economic, social and cultural impacts and develop an evaluation criteria to prioritise and assess values. Stage 3 will focus on water demand, water allocation, land use, efficient use and water storage.

At the completion of this three stage strategy the community will be well placed to assess future demand requirements for the full range of freshwater resource uses in order to determine how the resource will be allocated and what further measures, including increased or further storage requirements, will be required.

The strategy will include a significant community consultation input in order to incorporate a wide range of community views on the catchments freshwater resource. Considering the impacts of climate change is an integral component of the strategy.

The issue/opportunity

The key issue is determining the long term demand on the freshwater resource of the Waipaoa River, its tributaries and associated groundwater resources in an integrated approach which considers municipal needs, irrigation requirements on arable land and ongoing stock water needs throughout the catchment. This strategy will provide a holistic approach to assess future demand and identify means of providing for storage during periods of water shortage. Consideration of climate change is critical in developing the strategy.

Objectives focus on sustainable management of both surface and groundwater resources, maintaining and possibly enhancing water quality and identifying future storage requirements in an integrated approach taking into account social, cultural, economic and environmental values.

The context/background

The Waipaoa River drains 216,500 hectares of land made up of 95 % hill country and about 11,000 hectares (5% of the catchment area) of arable land including the highly productive Poverty Bay Flats. Gisborne City is located at the eastern extremity of the flats.

Municipal water supply for Gisborne is obtained from a bush catchment in the Upper Te Arai Catchment (a tributary of the Waipaoa River) and three storage dams outside the Waipaoa Catchment, all located southwest of Gisborne. Water treatment from these sources occurs at Waingake some 35 kilometres from Gisborne and four kilometres downstream of the bush catchment intake. The city water is augmented by water sourced and treated from the Waipaoa River at Bushmere.

Almost all water takes in the Gisborne District are from surface and groundwater sources for seasonal irrigation of crops on the Poverty Bay Flats. Notable exceptions are two takes for frost protection from the Waipaoa River.

The Waipaoa River headwaters in the western hill country receive a reliable rainfall in all but extremely dry weather conditions and respond rapidly to rainfall. This provides water to the Poverty Bay Flats during drought conditions along the coast. The river is also the recharge source for a number of aquifers underlying the flats. Long term monitoring of the main aquifers suggests that recharge is occurring in a sustainable manner.

There is little ecological research information available for the Waipaoa Catchment reflecting the high natural sediment loadings in the regions watercourses. Recent research has focused on catchments along the districts northern boundary with higher natural water quality.

Demand for freshwater has declined since the kiwifruit boom of the mid-1980s and resources, other than the Lower Te Arai River, are not considered fully allocated. Regular checks of land use are undertaken to assess water demand. Should a significant increase in demand occur Council may have issues in determining what is full allocation and how much water can actually be allocated.

Council is responding to the possible outcomes of the National Environmental Standard on Ecological Flows and Waters Levels and the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management by developing a water allocation plan. This is requiring that minimum flow information is developed on a formal scientific basis as opposed to existing pragmatic approaches to allocation and imposing water restrictions.

The strategy is important in determining freshwater demand for all uses and identifying periods potential water storage options would secure supply in a sustainable manner to the benefit of the community and the environment.

Methods

Stage 1 of the strategy focuses in developing a scientific approach to determining minimum flows for surface and groundwater resources associated with the Waipaoa catchment. This will develop ecological flows for surface waters, identify annual average recharge of the Poverty Bay Flats aquifers and determine total water flows and annual recharge.

Stage 2 of the strategy will focus on developing methodologies to identify economic values, social impacts including assessing amenity, recreational and landscape values, along with developing methods to determine cultural values of the Waipaoa Catchment. An evaluation criteria to prioritise all of these values will be implemented.

Stage 3 of the strategy will use information gathered at that time to determine actual water demand, provide for water allocation and predict future demand from land use surveys of both hill country and flat land. Water storage options will be developed based on this works and in consideration of climate change.

Project Update: February 2013

Council remains focused on two key streams of priority work for the water plan:

  • a strategic plan for water that involves identifying key issues and identifying desired freshwater outcomes that would apply across the whole District; and
  • a management plan for the Waipaoa to develop specific management tools.

Previous consideration had been given to breaking down the catchment plan into a sub-component being the development of a Te Arai Management Area Pilot study. However the decision has been made to develop the wider management plan as one project with the Te Arai area still being a lead area in the plan development. The decision has also been made to widen the area to incorporate some areas not within the actual Waipaoa catchment but have a strong relationship with land and water use. Other management plans will be developed as resources permit using the previous work as tested templates.

Council staff have worked with the Fresh Water Advisory Group (FWAG) to prepare a first draft Freshwater Vision and Outcome Statements. This has been through a first public consultation process and reported back to FWAG and further refined. These will be tested in the development of the Waipaoa Management Plan.

Research for the Waipaoa Catchment Plan continues. The work completed to date includes:

  • establishing surface water volumes in the Waipaoa river system;
  • assessing minimum ecological flows for the Waipaoa and Te Arai rivers;
  • trialing a method of assessing tangata whenua values for Te Arai;
  • identifying crop water requirements;
  • tracking land use changes on the Poverty Bay Flats and implications for water;
  • identifying industrial, commercial and residential water demand in Gisborne City;
  • reporting on sedimentation history in the Waipaoa catchment;
  • assessing the economic values of irrigation on the Poverty Bay Flats;
  • assessing the impacts of climate change on water resources in the Waipaoa Catchment;
  • identifying rainfall recharge estimates for Gisborne District aquifers;
  • developing a conceptual groundwater model for the Poverty Bay Flats aquifers;
  • peer review of the conceptual groundwater model for the Poverty Bay Flats aquifers;
  • River Values Assessment System (RiVAS) analysis
    • Irrigation
    • Native birdlife
    • Native fish
    • Natural character
    • Salmonid angling
    • River swimming
    • Water used for domestic purposes

A draft report has been received on benefits, costs and recommendations for biological monitoring of rivers in Gisborne District (NIWA – Envirolink project).

A consultant (Aqualinc Research) has been engaged and work has almost been completed (draft received) on the “strategic water study into freshwater supply and demand options” (Milestones 5 & 9).

The Freshwater Advisory Group (FWAG) has met once during this reporting period. The key focus has been on:

  • Providing information on research reports that have been completed or are in progress and discussing the implications;
  • Developing operational structures and management options for delivering the project;
  • reviewing progress to date and setting next actions

To provide more support for the project agreement has been reached with FWAG members to have monthly meetings.

Staff and some members of the FWAG have attended a presentation on Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) and undertaken a preliminary examination of potential for the District. Further research is anticipated in this regard.


Project Update:  June 2012

Council remains focused on two key streams of work for the water plan:

  • a strategic plan for water that involves identifying key issues and identifying desired freshwater outcomes that would apply across the whole District; and
  • a catchment plan for the Waipaoa to develop specific management tools.

Council staff have worked with the Fresh Water Advisory Group to prepare a first draft Freshwater Vision and outcome Statements.  This is currently under public consultation (closes 15 August).

Council officers have almost completed the first stage of research for the Waipaoa Catchment Plan.  The work completed to date includes:

  • establishing surface water volumes in the Waipaoa river system;
  • assessing minimum ecological flows for the Waipaoa and Te Arai rivers;
  • trialing a method of assessing tangata whenua values for Te Arai;
  • identifying crop water requirements;
  • tracking land use changes on the Poverty Bay Flats and implications for water;
  • identifying industrial, commercial and residential water demand in Gisborne City;
  • reporting on sedimentation history in the Waipaoa catchment;
  • assessing the economic values of irrigation on the Poverty Bay Flats (NEW);
  • assessing the impacts of climate change on water resources in the Waipaoa Catchment (NEW);
  • identifying rainfall recharge estimates for Gisborne District aquifers (NEW);
  • developing a conceptual groundwater model for the Poverty Bay Flats aquifers (NEW).

There are several pending reports including a permitted takes report and a water quality status report as well as one piece of research about to start on scenarios for projecting water demand within the catchment out to 50 years.

One of the tools we have invested in is the River Values Assessment System (RiVAS method) to identify, with a measure of objectivity and consistency, what the key freshwater values are in our District.   We have completed assessments of seven key values (irrigation, native fish, natural character, salmonid angling, swimming, potable water, native fish) and the final reports are also pending.  These reports give us an indication of the relative significance of freshwater values across the District at a strategic level and will assist with prioritising future work.  The assessments also provide us with some detailed information about river values that can be used in developing catchment plans as well.

The Freshwater Advisory Group has met twice during this reporting period.  The key focus has been on:

  • understanding the technical material/reports being prepared; and
  • developing the Draft Vision and Outcome Statements.

Project Update:  February 2012

On 30 November 2011 the FWAG had a field trip around the Waipaoa catchment to highlight the range of freshwater values and issues in our District.  The field trip provided an opportunity for the FWAG to hear first hand from technical experts about the freshwater research completed to date and gain an understanding of water management from a range of viewpoints.

The field trip was followed the next day by an objective-setting workshop where the FWAG members identified the key freshwater values that needed to be captured in objectives for water management.  Staff are working on pulling that material together into a set of draft objectives.

The research phase of the project is drawing to a close and the following research reports are due for completion over the next few months:

  • establishing ground water volumes in the Waipaoa system and identifying total allocable volumes in the Waipaoa catchment;
  • reporting on water quality data for the Waipaoa catchment;
  • assessing the potential impacts of climate change on water resources.

 All of the information gathered through the research stages will be pulled together into a user-friendly Freshwater Discussion Paper for public consultation.  The Discussion Paper will also include draft objectives and a general approach to managing water allocation and water quality.

The freshwater reports are available on the Council website http://www.gdc.govt.nz/freshwater-reports/


Project update:  October 2011

Council remains focused on two key streams of work for the water plan:

  • a strategic plan for water that involves identifying key values and issues and setting objectives that would apply across the whole District; and
  • a river system plan for the Waipaoa to develop specific management tools.

One of the tools that we have invested in over the past 6 months is the use of RiVAS method to identify, at a strategic level, what the key freshwater values are in our District.   In summary, RIVAS tries to put some structure and objectivity around identifying water values.  It uses a series of indicators and asks experts to rank values according to these indicators.  The method is relatively new, however each set of indicators has been tested at least twice (except native fish) by regional councils.

We have almost completed an assessment of 10 of the RiVAS values.  We will use this information as one of the tools to guide our FWAG in setting District-wide objectives for freshwater management.

Aside from the strategic plan, we also need to have catchment specific plans so we are able to manage water on a day to day basis.
Council continues to focus on the Waipaoa Catchment as the priority due to the significance and range of fresh water values in that catchment. The river system is the source of the drinking water supply for Gisborne city, it supports a vast horticultural activity on the Poverty Bay Flats and has significant tangata whenua values.  The work started to date includes:

  • research to establish total allocable volumes in the Waipaoa river system.  This covers the amount of ground water and surface water available for allocation;
  • an assessment of the minimum ecological flows for the Waipaoa and Te Arai rivers (complete);
  • a trial of assessing tangata whenua values for Te Arai with Ngati Ruapani (Ohako Marae) (complete);
  • an assessment of the direct and indirect economic values of water use (irrigation and stock watering) on the Poverty Bay Flats;
  • land use changes on the Poverty Bay Flats and the potential implications for water availability (complete).

In addition, staff have been gathering data on the current state of our water resources, including water quality, sedimentation and general water availability across the District.

All of the information gathered through the research stages will be pulled together into a user-friendly discussion paper for public consultation – we are aiming to have this completed by March 2012.

The Gisborne Fresh Water Advisory Group (FWAG) continues to meet quarterly to steer Council.  Membership covers a wide range of interests from iwi to horticulturists to environmental interests.  Three working groups have been established under the FWAG (ecological values, economic values and social/cultural values) to provide technical and local input into the process.


Project Update: June 2011

Council is currently working on two key streams of work for the water plan:

  • a strategic plan for water that involves identifying key values and issues and setting objectives that would apply across the whole District; and
  • a river system plan for the Waipaoa to develop specific management tools.

One of the tools that we want to use to synthesise all of the values work for the strategic plan is the RIVAS method. In summary, RIVAS tries to put some structure and objectivity around identifying water values. It uses a series of indicators and asks experts to rank values according to these indicators. The method is relatively new, however each set of indicators has been tested at least twice (except native fish) by regional councils.

One of the benefits officers see is the use of the method in pulling together all of the current values work we have done and assisting with setting objectives as well as identifying which river systems are the next priorities (after Waipaoa) for the development of plans.

Aside from the strategic plan, we also need to have catchment specific plans so we are able to manage water on a day to day basis. Each river system has its own particular issues, uses and values and we will need to develop water quality standards, water allocation limits and tailored management methods.

Council has decided to focus on the Waipaoa river system as the priority due to the significance and range of fresh water values in that catchment. The river system is the source of the drinking water supply for Gisborne city, it supports a vast horticultural activity on the Poverty Bay Flats and has significant tangata whenua values. The work started to date includes:

  • research to establish total allocable volumes in the Waipaoa river system. This covers the amount of round water and surface water;
  • an assessment of the minimum ecological flows for the Waipaoa and Te Arai rivers;
  • a trial of assessing tangata whenua values for Te Arai with Ngati Ruapani (Ohako Marae);
  • an assessment of the direct and indirect economic values of water use (irrigation and stock watering) on the Poverty Bay Flats;
  • land use changes on the Poverty Bay Flats and the potential implications for water availability.

The remaining river systems in the District will be prioritised for future work.

The Gisborne Fresh Water Advisory Group (FWAG) continues to meet quarterly to steer Council. Membership covers a wide range of interests from iwi to horticulturalists to environmental interests. Three working groups have been established under the FWAG (ecological values, economic values and social/cultural values) to provide technical and local input into the process.


Project Update: February 2011

Stage 1:

Work has been completed to identify ecological fresh water values and a report from NIWA has been published on the Council website.

Work to identify total allocable volumes from surface and ground water is underway.

For surface water, Council officers are preparing a report based on information in Council's hydrological database to show total monthly volumes over wet and dry years and how these compare with Mean Annual Low Flow. Before the rating curves could be run showing the monthly volumes, Council had to adjust its water level data to fit with the new Hilltop database so work has been delayed and is now expected to be completed in June 2011.

For ground water, Council officers are measuring the size and shape of the Poverty Bay aquifers to identify the total allocable groundwater volumes. This will then be compared with rainfall data and will enable us to calculate recharge rates. This work relies on completing pre-irrigation and post-irrigation river gauging of key sites and has been stalled due to weather conditions. We hope there will be an opportunity to complete the final set of gaugings in late April. We expect the ensuing assessment to be complete in August 2011.

Stage 2:

The Gisborne Fresh Water Advisory Group (FWAG) had its inaugural meeting on 8 December 2010. Membership covers a wide range of interests from iwi to horticulturalists to environmental interests. There is a commitment from each of the parties to work together to develop a strategy for sustainable water management across the District.

The initial focus will be on the Waipaoa Catchment as the priority catchment due to the significance and range of fresh water values in that catchment. The catchment is the source of the drinking water supply for Gisborne city. It also supports a vast horticultural activity on the Poverty Bay Flats and has significant tangata whenua values.

The approach the FWAG is taking is to first identify freshwater values and any issues that affect those values. Based on this information appropriate fresh water management tools will be developed.

The FWAG has three Technical Working Groups being established to identify ecological, economic and social/cultural values. They are due to report back to the FWAG in June with interim results.

Further information about the project and the FWAG is available on Council's website.

Council has recently completed another survey of the Poverty Bay Flats to identify current land use. When compared with surveys from previous years the trends in land use change will enable Council to factor land use into decisions on water management. A draft report has been completed and is with internal staff for peer review.


Project Update: June 2010 

Stage one of the study involves finding suitable methods for identifying freshwater values in the Gisborne District. We have decided on the methods to be used and have started to gather the information required. 

We have completed a study of the Waipaoa and Te Arai Rivers, which has revealed the minimum flows required in these rivers to maintain ecological values. 
We have started work with Ngati Ruapani on identifying tangata whenua values for Te Arai River. Again, this work will identify tangata whenua perspectives on the minimum flows required to maintain cultural values. 

We have also made progress on improving our understanding of the groundwater system under the Poverty Bay Flats. We have identified a method for calculating groundwater recharge rates and data collection for this will take place in October 2010 and April 2011.    

We are now turning our attention to establishing a Freshwater Forum in the District to facilitate engagement with key stakeholders.


Update: February 2010

Gisborne District Council is in the early stages of long-term planning for the District’s water resources.  Part of this process is to balance how much water should be available for activities like irrigation and domestic water supply and how much water needs to stay in the District’s rivers and waterways to protect ecology, tangata whenua values, recreation and natural landscapes.

Council is concentrating on the Waipaoa River and catchment at this stage as this river has the highest demand for water.  Project 09/10 focuses on identifying ecological values and flow requirements to sustain them.  We have found robust methods of doing this and have even made a start in collecting the information through biological sampling (electric fishing).  Council is aiming to complete this work by end of 2010. 

 

Last Updated: 07 January 2014

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