Severe water shortage threatens Auckland tomato growers

Tomato growers in Auckland say a lack of rain is threatening the future of their business.

Anthony and Angela Tringham, and their tomato growing business Curious Croppers, have been hit hard by the city's ongoing drought.

The couple produce heirloom tomatoes for high-end restaurants in Auckland, and for the Clevedon Farmers Market.

They've been growing tomatoes for decades, and until now there's always been enough water. 

But a lack of rainfall in recent months means their tomatoes - and their business - is now at risk.

"What people probably realise is it doesn't rain in Auckland anymore," Anthony told The AM Show on Wednesday. 

"It used to be that in Auckland around this time of the year we were always grizzling a bit about how wet it was and that was years ago, and then suddenly it feels like the climate's flipped - and it's gone to a drier, hotter climate. 

"And what we rely on is underground water and one day we woke up and the water that we normally suck out had dropped to a trickle - now that's really stressful if you're growing tomatoes and you need a consistent supply of water constantly."

The growing business - which employs around 10 people - needs 20,000 litres of water a day, otherwise their tomatoes will quickly die.

Although there is a creek nearby with water, that is too dirty to be of use, Anthony said.

"There's lots of water everywhere. The difficulty is, if you suck water from a creek it's pretty dirty water. So we could suck some water from the creek and it would save the plants' lives, but ultimately they'd die because the water is so filthy."

Anthony says the problem of a lack of water is one city planners should have seen coming long ago.

"It's not like it's a big surprise. We've known that Auckland is going to go to a drier, hotter climate for maybe 10 or 20 years. But people say that they're going to do something but it's easier to just not do anything. The fact that Auckland is running out of water now, I think, is blimmin ridiculous."

The couple are now paying tens of thousands of dollars to drill a deeper bore and find more water underground.

"The worry is, they promise that they'll dig a hole but they don't guarantee water. And sometimes you get water and you can't use it," he said.

Despite taking their chances, the couple remain optimistic they will soon have access to precious water again.

"We've got days of water left, maybe a week. And these guys are drilling now, so they reckon they'll have good water to us within a few days. 

"So it's close, but I think we're going to make it."