Tuesday, 26 May 2020


“Everything is on the table” with regard to Whitianga’s water supply

More than 150 people attended a public meeting in the Whitianga Town Hall last Sunday afternoon to discuss the current total watering ban in Whitianga.

In addition to Allan Tiplady, Thames-Coromandel District Council’s Area Manager North, and Bruce Hinson, TCDC’s Operations Group Manager, the meeting was attended by TCDC councillor, Tony Fox, and Mercury Bay Community Board members Rekha Giri-Percival, Bill McLean and Jeremy Lomas.

The meeting started off with organiser, Len Salt, reading the following statement Denis Tegg, Waikato Regional Council councillor for the Thames-Coromandel constituency, made available last week to The Informer and online -

“TCDC holds a resource consent [from WRC], that expires in 2025, to take up to 8,000 cubic metres of water per day from the Whangamaroro River to supply water to Whitianga. This consent was granted in 2006 and replaced a previous consent that authorised the taking of up to 5,450 cubic metres of water per day.

“When applying for the consent, TCDC expected this would provide for foreseeable future needs. The conditions attached to the consent were established based on technical advice provided by TCDC, that was prepared by NIWA and reviewed by WRC scientists. The historical record of the daily volume provided by TCDC indicates that the maximum volume that has been taken is around 6,000 cubic metres per day, so there appears to be sufficient capacity for supply within the current consent.

“The consent also includes conditions that require the volume of water taken on a daily basis to be reduced when the river flow falls to specified flow levels. These levels were identified by NIWA as appropriate to protect in-stream values. It has been for TCDC to determine how it goes about achieving these reductions when/if they are needed.

“The option is available to TCDC to seek a new consent prior to the existing consent expiring, if it considers that necessary.

“Other options available to TCDC include the provision of additional storage. This was a matter raised by other interested and affected parties when the current consent was processed in 2006. At the time the decision noted that the 19-year consent duration provided sufficient time for TCDC to consider other options to manage pressures on water supply during periods of low flow.”

In addressing the meeting, Allan Tiplady said that TCDC’s legal obligation to the people of the Coromandel is to provide water for health and hygiene purposes only. He agreed with Mr Tegg that peak water consumption in Whitianga is approximately 6,000 cubic metres per day. Outside the busy summer holiday and long weekend periods, the town’s “normal” consumption is sitting at around 2,500 cubic metres per day.

However, the TCDC resource consent stipulates that a maximum of 8,000 cubic metres per day can only be taken when the Whangamaroro River is flowing faster than 643 litres per second. As Mr Tegg pointed out, any flow slower than that means a reduction in the amount of water that can be taken. “When the flow drops below 440 litres per second, we actually have to stop taking any water,” Mr Tiplady said. “At the moment the flow is only 270 litre per second, which means we are technically in breach of our resource consent.”

“At the height of last year’s dry period, which occurred after most of the holidaymakers had gone home already, the flow reduced to 540 litres per second. There is no denying our problem at the moment is a lack of rain.

“As we are in breach of our resource consent as it is, people should not assume that water restrictions will ease after Waitangi Weekend and all the summer holiday visitors to the Coromandel have left.”

Mr Tiplady has also pointed out that Whitianga’s storage capacity of treated water is just over one day’s peak period consumption and about four days’ worth of normal consumption. “To spend millions of dollars to double the number of reservoirs we have, is really not going to make much of a difference,” he said.

When it was his opportunity to say a few words, Bruce Hinson pointed out that his team at TCDC is expecting to complete a water capacity study within the next month or so. “We will then be in a position to better consider the options for improved water supply to Whitianga,” he said.

Options Mr Hinson referred to include an untreated water storage dam, for which it will be very difficult to obtain resource consent, locating and bringing online an additional water source, aquifer storage and recovery, applying for amended resource conditions from WRC and water metering with property owners installing their own rainwater and grey water tanks. “Everything is on the table,” he said.

“Rain is forecasted for the middle to the end of this month. Fingers crossed it will happen. Rain will certainly relieve some of the pressure we are experiencing at the moment.”

When the floor was opened for discussion, a lot of focus was placed on the Waiwawa River at Coroglen as a potential additional water source, water metering, property owners installing their own water tanks and the resource consent conditions TCDC is operating under. One of the meeting attendees said that he has done the calculations and at the peak summer holiday time, with the flow of the Whangamaroro River as it is at the moment, less than 30 per cent of the daily flow of the river will be taken by TCDC  if no water restrictions are in place. “The real problem is the resource consent conditions attached to Whitianga’s water supply,” the attendee said.

Another attendee pointed out that the financial implications of property owners installing their own water tanks will in all probability be the same as piping water from the Waiwawa River to Whitianga.

Councillor Tony Fox indicated that he personally is willing to consider all possible solutions. “I want to assure everyone that the TCDC staff fully understand the issues surrounding Whitianga’s water supply currently and that all future decisions will be taken after extensive community consultation and with the best information at hand,” he said.

Len Salt concluded the meeting by saying that whatever is going to happen, it has to happen without much delay. “We do not want to see our lawns, gardens and trees die this time next year again,” he said.

After the meeting, Mr Hinson confirmed to The Informer that the total watering ban in Whitianga has translated into a slight reduction in the consumption of water in the town.

Pictured: Bruce Hinson, Thames-Coromandel District Council’s Operations Group manager, addressing last Sunday’s public meeting regarding the current watering restrictions in Whitianga.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.