Far North iwi Te Rarawa turns soil on water storage facility

A Far North iwi is making its own drought-breaker by developing a water storage facility near Kaitaia.

Te Rarawa has turned the soil on the project, which is expected to create much-needed jobs and sustainable economic development for the region.

At Ahipara in Northland, the soil has been broken on farmland making way for a $4.1 million water storage project.

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little and Minister for Regional Economic Development Shane Jones were welcomed onto the project site by Te Rarawa on Saturday.

The Provincial Growth Fund is providing $3m of financing for the iwi.

"It's great to see an iwi like Te Rarawa, who have settled their iwi claims and are now really getting on with the business of growing their economic base to help their people," Little says.

By the end of the year, the natural basin at the site will be transformed into a reservoir large enough to fill 140 Olympic swimming pools. The water storage facility will allow iwi to convert 400 hectares of dairy farms into high-value horticulture.

"The Government is highly impressed by the willingness of Te Rarawa to transition out of conservative agricultural use such as dairy and take a risk," Jones says.

"Dairy is just never going to create the jobs that are needed and horticulture would."

Amid a devastating drought, this project will bring greater security to the region. Horticulture creates more jobs, is better for the environment and has a higher yield than dairy farming.

From construction to completion, more than 100 jobs will be created in the area.

"We have to get it right for our people and our communities in a way that allows them vocational development, employment, and training," Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa chairperson Haami Piripi says.

"Nobody else is going to do it for us so we're doing it for ourselves."

After spending $500 million in Northland Jones isn't shying away from his honorary title of Finance Minister in the region.

"I think they're encouraging me to continue on in the role of being Father Christmas of the provinces," he says.

A gift of prosperity to the north that will extend far beyond the festive season for the tamariki of Te Rarawa.