A regional problem

about hero

The following editorial ran in the Nelson Mail in 2001 following a drought that lasted from December 2000 right through winter 2001. Read more about the 2001 drought.

A regional problem

3 October 2001

The glorious spring unfolding across Nelson is bringing some anxiety along with the mild, sunny days. The rain is staying away and that’s already triggering some nervousness about another dry summer. With this year’s record-breaking drought still a fresh memory, nobody has any excuse to ignore the warning signs. More than anyone, the region’s political leaders need to get their collective heads around the need for a well-planned strategy – both short and long term – to deal with the twin pressures of burgeoning demand for water and a possible trend towards repeated summer droughts.

Water conservation has typically been an out-of-sight, out-of-mind issue. Until shortages threaten an individual’s normal routines, they’re somebody else’s problem. There’s even a hint of that attitude at local body level, with Nelson City Council appearing quite content that it’s got its needs well planned for and showing little enthusiasm in getting seriously involved in the bigger issues confronting the Tasman district.

The attitude doesn’t bear up, though. The whole region’s livelihood depends on the health of the primary sector, and that in turn depends on secure water supply. Even if residents are happy coping with the inconvenience of rationing during droughts, they shouldn’t be so accepting of the potential economic damage if the region has to deal with continuing serious dry spells and can’t provide enough water for new industry.

The TDC has little choice about confronting the challenges and it has been slowly moving to improve its supplies. But firm solutions look to be in the distant future, potentially with large price tags and potentially require a regional approach. Meanwhile, there remains a frustrating failure to develop a strategy that demands wider public ownership of the water problem. Perhaps the only silver lining to another drought this summer will be if it finally sheets home to the whole community that it’s not somebody else’s problem.