Northland drought situation

New Zealand: Avocado growers and locals quarrel over water rights

Far North avocado orchardists say jobs are being lost because of the delay in processing their water resource consents. However, locals say the water rights will not be handed over just because the orchardists are in a hurry and the issue needs careful consideration in the drought-sensitive area.

The water tussle concerns the unique aquifer underneath Aupōuri Peninsula, at the top of the country north of Kaitaia. Twenty-four orchardists and landowners have applied to take 6.2 million cubic metres of water from the aquifer each year. The landowners' applications were lodged between February 2018 and August 2019.

Aupōuri Peninsula residents are concerned massive water takes for avocados could ruin their aquifer. The Northland Regional Council did a limited notification in late 2019. A commissioner hearing was expected at the start of this year, but it now won’t start until August 31. The delays come after the council found inaccuracies in its historical bore data, which meant there was less water in the aquifer than previously thought.

But Ian Broadhurst, general manager of avocado orchard Mapua, said the delays were costing much-needed jobs after orchardists took a multi-million dollar leap of faith on the consents. “We can't do anything without water,” he said. “We want the resource to be well-managed ... But taking two years to get to this process is far too long.”


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