The Heretaunga and Ahuriri catchments covers the catchments of the Tūtaekurī, Ngaruroro and Karamū rivers and the Ahuriri Estuary Te Whanganui-a-Orotū. These waterways are intricately connected to the large Heretaunga Plains aquifer, which supplies water to Napier and Hastings and supports the local economy.
85% of Hawke's Bay’s population live in the Heretaunga and Ahuriri catchments and it represents 80% of the regions GDP.
The Heretaunga Plains is the site of intensive agriculture (cropping, horticulture, viticulture), land use associated with large urban centres, including transport, flood protection and service infrastructure, and a range of industries. The Council-owned stopbanks along the main rivers provide flood protection for communities, not to mention the recreation opportunities in the river corridors, walking and cycling trails.
There are large tracts of native vegetation in the upper Ngaruroro and Tūtaekurī catchments, including conservation estate in the Kaweka and Ruahine Forest Parks. There is highly modified land cover in the mid to lower catchments with isolated patches of native vegetation.
Ahuriri Estuary Te Whanganui-a-Orotū is a significant conservation area with high ecological value, as well as the Poukawa and Waitangi wetlands. Many native fish species, and rainbow and brown trout frequent the rivers. Surface water quality gradually decreases from a pristine ecological condition in the upper reaches of the catchment, to an ‘impacted rural condition’, to the worst water quality in urban areas.
There is already pressure on this area’s water quality and quantity, including the receiving estuaries at Ahuriri and Waitangi. The need to review outdated plan provisions for water allocation in the Heretaunga and Ahuriri catchments resulted in the Regional Council preparing the TANK Plan Change for the catchment. This was notified for submissions in 2020 after a lengthy community-led plan preparation process. While it reflected the intent of Government policy from 2017, the introduction of a revised policy in September 2020 means that further review is needed. HBRC is working to ensure that the rules for the Heretaunga and Ahuriri catchments reflect the Government’s latest policy changes.
The issues addressed in the TANK Plan Change included:
Attention is being given to managing erosion control and the Ngaruroro and Tūtaekurī Rivers’ flood protection, the impact this has on ecosystem health, and the availability of gravel resources for construction and roading.
The tensions between urban development needs and its impacts on scarce resources like productive soils are not in the scope of the current work programme. Due to population concentration, the Heretaunga and Ahuriri catchments is the area where our air monitoring and our air quality improvement measures have been and are currently focused.
The following infographic displays what the community has told us about this catchment in our first round of engagement. For more information read the full Kotahi Community Engagement Report here.
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