Let’s not waste water

Gisborne Chamber of Commerce chief executive Terry Sheldrake.

The Chamber of Commerce’s core role within the business community is advocacy. Since the last Business Quarterly we have been busy completing a case study — supported by funding from our economic development agency Activate Tairawhiti — on the complex issues around the potential to use recycled waste water for irrigation of horticulture crops and land.

Simply put, today the demand for irrigation water is greater than what is available, hence something seriously needs to change.

With the appropriate investment, this challenge could also be an opportunity to address cleaning up the estimated 5 million cubic metres of treated waste water that is pumped into Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay each year. This is a significant amount of water that needs a long-term, sustainable solution.

While many have been discussing the need to address what has been a contentious issue, the chamber’s executive has been proactive and engaged with this study. We have tested the opinions of local industry leaders who are reliant on continuous and higher levels of quality water, and consulted more widely. It’s not a conclusive list yet, however we have discussed this topic with current users, including iwi and some land owners, major growers and exporters. We have further engaged with both local and external experts (offshore).

We have met with business people who are totally reliant on consistent water flows, and those potentially most affected as the main existing water resource is being depleted.

This is a serious situation that has already prompted the managed aquifer recharge trials, and could find a further solution in the form of treated waste water.

The current source of 60 percent of irrigation water on the Poverty Bay Flats is depleting, while we have growing demand and the potential for our regional economy to get a huge boost if we can irrigate more of our fertile flat land, and put in more higher-value crops.

Add a changing climate, and the issue is only going to compound. As a community we need to take action sooner rather than later.

GDC has recently commited to fast-tracking the next stage of the waste water treatment upgrade, a disinfection stage, at an estimated cost of $24.4 million. This is not the next key question: Is the use of treated reclaimed-water for irrigation a realistic option for Tairawhiti?

The second topic I want to discuss today is the state of our central business district.

We have numerous vacant shops already and now pressure on several building owners to address earthquake strengthening requirements.

Is it time for GDC to revisit free inner-city parking for up to two or three hours, maybe off-peak, or perhaps to do away with parking meters altogether? Or should the council be considering the value a revitalisation of the city centre would add? A pedestrianised section of Gladstone Road has been considered before, should the community be consulted about that and other options for the CBD?

We need a vibrant city centre, and we need to support our city retail businesses.

It is now 20 years since the city centre had a makeover and it is looking tired. If we can remove one of the barriers (parking charges) and encourage more community foot traffic back into inner city, then why not? Yes it is also an effective way to ration parking during busy periods, and a revenue source for the council. Where should our priorities sit?

I also wish to note Air New Zealand’s new flight prices to Auckland/Wellington starting as low as $39 and $49 respectively. This is very positive news for regional tourism and those looking to travel by air. Congratulations Air NZ.

  • Terry Sheldrake MNZM is chief executive of Gisborne Chamber of Commerce. The wastewater report can be read at the chamber website: www.gisborne.org.nz

The Chamber of Commerce’s core role within the business community is advocacy. Since the last Business Quarterly we have been busy completing a case study — supported by funding from our economic development agency Activate Tairawhiti — on the complex issues around the potential to use recycled waste water for irrigation of horticulture crops and land.

Simply put, today the demand for irrigation water is greater than what is available, hence something seriously needs to change.

With the appropriate investment, this challenge could also be an opportunity to address cleaning up the estimated 5 million cubic metres of treated waste water that is pumped into Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay each year. This is a significant amount of water that needs a long-term, sustainable solution.

While many have been discussing the need to address what has been a contentious issue, the chamber’s executive has been proactive and engaged with this study. We have tested the opinions of local industry leaders who are reliant on continuous and higher levels of quality water, and consulted more widely. It’s not a conclusive list yet, however we have discussed this topic with current users, including iwi and some land owners, major growers and exporters. We have further engaged with both local and external experts (offshore).

We have met with business people who are totally reliant on consistent water flows, and those potentially most affected as the main existing water resource is being depleted.

This is a serious situation that has already prompted the managed aquifer recharge trials, and could find a further solution in the form of treated waste water.

The current source of 60 percent of irrigation water on the Poverty Bay Flats is depleting, while we have growing demand and the potential for our regional economy to get a huge boost if we can irrigate more of our fertile flat land, and put in more higher-value crops.

Add a changing climate, and the issue is only going to compound. As a community we need to take action sooner rather than later.

GDC has recently commited to fast-tracking the next stage of the waste water treatment upgrade, a disinfection stage, at an estimated cost of $24.4 million. This is not the next key question: Is the use of treated reclaimed-water for irrigation a realistic option for Tairawhiti?

The second topic I want to discuss today is the state of our central business district.

We have numerous vacant shops already and now pressure on several building owners to address earthquake strengthening requirements.

Is it time for GDC to revisit free inner-city parking for up to two or three hours, maybe off-peak, or perhaps to do away with parking meters altogether? Or should the council be considering the value a revitalisation of the city centre would add? A pedestrianised section of Gladstone Road has been considered before, should the community be consulted about that and other options for the CBD?

We need a vibrant city centre, and we need to support our city retail businesses.

It is now 20 years since the city centre had a makeover and it is looking tired. If we can remove one of the barriers (parking charges) and encourage more community foot traffic back into inner city, then why not? Yes it is also an effective way to ration parking during busy periods, and a revenue source for the council. Where should our priorities sit?

I also wish to note Air New Zealand’s new flight prices to Auckland/Wellington starting as low as $39 and $49 respectively. This is very positive news for regional tourism and those looking to travel by air. Congratulations Air NZ.

  • Terry Sheldrake MNZM is chief executive of Gisborne Chamber of Commerce. The wastewater report can be read at the chamber website: www.gisborne.org.nz
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