Media Release: Water now flowing on Ōhakea Rural Water Scheme

The Ōhakea Rural Water Scheme has been officially opened by the Minister for the Environment David Parker and Manawatū District Mayor Helen Worboys.

A project just over two years in the making, the scheme came about following the discovery in 2017 of PFAS contamination of ground water supplies to Ōhakea residents. The Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand Defence Force, Horizons Regional Council, iwi Ngāti Parewahawaha and Manawatū District Council collaborated to explore solutions to the contamination issue and how to provide unaffected drinking water to residents.

Minister Parker acknowledged the strong advocacy for the scheme by Mayor Helen Worboys and the support of local MP Ian McKelvie.

“The Government is pleased to support this project with funding of $10.88m to help allay community concerns about the safety of the water you drink and use.”

In early 2020, Manawatū District Council began the management of a project to construct the scheme, which needed to deliver a new bore, reservoir, water treatment plant, and pipe network as well as connections to houses and farms.

In her own speech at the opening ceremony, Mayor Worboys said that the community and mana whenua had been a huge consideration when designing the scheme back in September 2020 and their support and ideas had been instrumental.

“A key success has been the efforts made by the project team to reach everyone in the community who was eligible to receive water under the planned scheme. Face-to-face visits with residents helped with details like where tanks should go, and how many units were needed. By the middle of 2021, the project team had visited 97 properties in the area.”

Progress on the scheme was thwarted somewhat by the second Level 4 lockdown in August 2021. Under government guidelines, work was able to continue during this lockdown, but the increased restrictions and supply chain pressures did contribute to delays in the construction.

There was also a delay following water sampling of the aquifer, which showed that the water had high level of iron and manganese. It was determined that a second filtration system would be required to make the water potable for consumption, and Council approved additional funding.

Despite the delays, the fact the water is now flowing is a huge relief to local residents says Andy Russell, who chaired the committee that was set up to advocate for those impacted by the contamination.

“While the PFAS contamination is still in the shallow aquifer and will be for many years, the water scheme has lessened the community’s fears around their personal health and the health of their land and production. I need to thank the committee for liaising with the Minister, MfE and MDC and helping residents when they had questions or fears around PFAS and the water scheme. Well done, team. Also, the support from Mayor Worboys, her council and council staff has been hugely gratifying, thank you. Finally, let’s not forget the contractors and their staff. Working through 2 winters in all weathers, I found it pretty inspiring to watch their progress. Thank you.” 

Ōhakea Rural Water Scheme facts

  1. Project design started in September 2020. Completed and commissioned by August 2022.
  2. The Government contributed $10.88 million to the project, with an extra $2 million of funding coming from Manawatū District Council.
  3. Bore depth is 620m, the deepest in the district.
  4. The pipe network is 28km in length, with connections to 80 properties.
  5. Has the ability to supply 1500m3 of water a day through the treatment plant.
  6. Includes a reservoir in Sanson with volume for 1 million litres of water.
  7. RNZAF Base Ōhakea is the largest customer of the scheme, and their involvement covers a large proportion of the scheme’s operational costs.