The future of Okato's water supply

19 December 2018

Opinion piece - from our Infrastructure Manager David Langford
The future of Okato’s water supply – it’s in your hands

For anyone who lives in Taranaki, the maunga is a source of identity and a beacon for the place we love and call home. Just like many other families, whenever I’ve been away from Taranaki with my family and we are making the journey back, my two young boys are always on the look out to see who can spot Mt Taranaki first.

As well as a sense of home and identity, our maunga gifts us with life sustaining water. Many of the rivers and streams in our district flow from the maunga and, as they cross the ring plain, they help create the natural environment that makes Taranaki one of the best places in the world to live. Simply put: water is at the heart of our lifestyle here in Taranaki.

Our rivers and streams are not only places of beauty and enjoyment, they’re also critical lifelines supporting the wildlife and natural environment. They also play a vital part supplying our community with water so that our community can stay healthy by having clean water to drink, wash with and flush the toilet. Finally, water is essential to many of the businesses in the District. Without water most businesses couldn’t operate, support employment and keep our local economy thriving.

As the water flows from our maunga to sustain the people of Taranaki, we must not take this gift for granted and remember we also have a responsibility to sustain the water.

In the last year, residents across our district used an average of 309 litres of water per person per day. This is a slight reduction from 337 litres the year before which is great progress, but it’s still more than double most other countries – in fact we use about the same amount of water per person as the USA and they don’t exactly share our clean, green reputation!

This year we also got a reminder just how important our water is when Taranaki was hit by Cyclone Gita – a tropical storm that caused significant damage to one of the city’s main pipe networks. This resulted in a three-day water outage for the district’s northern residents that closed local schools, disrupted businesses and saw emergency water tankers deployed to the streets.

At New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) we have a team of people who are committed to ensuring our community has a supply of safe drinking water. They’re also committed to doing our bit to keeping our streams and rivers healthy and swimmable, and a great home for everything that lives within them. 

New Plymouth District has four water networks: Okato, sourced from the Mangatete Stream; Oakura, with its underground water source; Inglewood, sourced from the Ngatoro Stream; and New Plymouth, which supplies people from Omata all the way north to Urenui, and is sourced from the Waiwhakaiho River via Lake Mangamahoe. 

With an overall network comprising more than 830km of pipes and 17 reservoirs, providing water to more than 63,000 residents and 3,000 commercial and industrial properties, it’s fair to say that managing the district’s water supply is no small task. Think about it – the last time you turned on the tap did it cross your mind that the water might not come out? Or that it might not be safe to drink? Probably not, because most of us expect it to just happen.

Yes, our water falls from the sky, and people often ask me why they have to pay New Plymouth District Council rates for something that’s free? My answer is simple: over the decades, the council has built water infrastructure worth more than $285 million so that we can take raw water, filter and treat it so that it is safe to drink, remove some of the smells, improve how it tastes and then deliver it on demand into your home. Our team does all this for about $0.0018 per litre of water – compare that to the cost of a bottled water next time you are in the local dairy.

Given just how important water is to us all, NPDC is committed to ensuring we actively engage with our community when it comes to planning for our future water needs – and that’s why we’re currently inviting you to have your say. 

Between now and June 2021, NPDC’s resource consents for all four water networks – issued by Taranaki Regional Council – will come to an end, with Okato being the first to end in June 2019.  

We’ve started the process of applying for a new resource consent – a process that gives us a great opportunity to talk directly to you about our water future and to make sure you have the opportunity to give us your thoughts on the water supply network’s future and the Mangatete Stream’s environment. 

At the moment, we’re planning to apply for a consent that will enable us to take the same volume of water from the stream. In the short term this will allow us to continue to meet the town’s water needs.

Beyond that, however, as the town’s population grows we also have some options to consider for Okato’s long-term future. For example, we could invest in projects that help reduce our impact on the Mangatete Stream – particularly during the dry summer months or projects that will reduce the frequency of outdoor water bans.

Before we make any decisions, we want to know what your priorities are so that any developments match the aspirations that our community has for their town and the surrounding environment.

Consultation is already open and will be closing just after New Year, on 6 January. We welcome any and all feedback and encourage you to not miss this opportunity to share your views on 

Remember, the future of Okato’s water supply really is in your hands. 

David Langford
NPDC Infrastructure Manager
Mangatete Stream Okato