Hawke's Bay's Bridge Pā facing detrimental water crisis

The small settlement of Bridge Pā on the outskirts of Hastings is ground zero for the water crisis facing the Hawke's Bay Region.

For years the community has been forced to watch their rivers dry up and, during the summer months, the Karewarewa river is reduced to a dust bowl.

Hira Huata says while Bridge Pā is suffering, just up the road local horticultural industries are flourishing.  

"When I see no water in my awa, it hurts," Huata says.

The wine industry is worth more than $2 billion to the New Zealand economy, and Hawke's Bay is the second-largest wine-producing region.

But it's part of an intensive horticultural industry that is drawing on scarce water resources in Heretaunga.

"This is not wine country," Huata says.

"That's really about certain people being able to invest and make money from this area."

Hawke's Bay Regional Council chief executive James Palmer is the person tasked with trying to fix the water crisis.

"Water has been allocated from the groundwater system on the assumption that we weren't having a significant environmental effect," he says.

Three years ago restrictions on new consents for taking water were introduced, and Palmer says this means industries like orchards and wineries can't ask for more water.

"So for now, we are seeing absolutely no expansion in those industries because we're not allocating any more water." 

Hawke's Bay's Bridge Pā facing detrimental water crisis
Photo credit: The Hui

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council is currently investing in water storage solutions.

Farmer Mike Glazebrook owns Te Tua Station in the heart of Bridge Pā's wine country.

His irrigation dam services Te Tua station, which includes vineyards, orchards, and organic maize cropping.

Glazebrook wants to expand his dam, saying this will allow for enough water to be collected for both irrigation and to help keep local streams flowing during the summer.

In the time since The Hui spoke to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, it announced it is investing almost $5 million into finding water storage solutions, with a focus on the Glazebrook Dam project.

But providing any relief to Bridge Pā soon seems unlikely.

"We've got more work to do to understand whether or not we've got viable solutions there," Palmer says.

"So next summer will be too soon for the whole package of solutions to really start delivering outcomes."

Outcome Huata says whānau in Bridge Pā are fed up with having to wait for.

"Where's my mokos going to swim? Where's their wai kaukau [place to swim], their wai ū, their wai ora?"

The Hui