Waimea Community Dam Reservoir is full

Te Kurawai o Pūhanga, the reservoir behind the Waimea Community Dam, reached its full capacity and the spillway commenced flowing on Sunday 21 January 2024.

“This is a momentous milestone for the project, and I thank all those involved in getting us to this point,” said Waimea Water Ltd CEO Mike Scott.

“We have been pleasantly surprised with the rain over the Christmas period and then again last week. This has led to the reservoir being filled and meant that our shareholders (Tasman District Council and Waimea Irrigators Ltd) have not needed water released over the period to fend off any restrictions.”

“As the reservoir was filled, water has been flowing from the dam to ensure river levels are above the required minimum flow. We have been prepared to release more water from the dam had our shareholders faced restrictions, but river levels have not yet dropped to a level where the dam has been needed. We will release more water if and when our shareholders require,” said Scott.

Now that the reservoir is full, final engineering analysis and verification of dam performance will conclude over the balance of this month, at which point the dam and spillway are effectively commissioned. The temporary pipes and facilities will then be removed to complete the final hook up of the permanent pipework. Waimea Water Ltd expects the project to be completed and commissioned in March 2024.

“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time and I thank the community and shareholders for their ongoing patience,” said Scott.

How the dam works

Water released from the Waimea Community Dam complements the natural system by supplementing low river flows to assist recharge of the Waimea aquifers. Assisted recharge of the aquifers maintain water levels for extraction and reduce the risk of saltwater intrusion from the coast. Maintaining higher river flows also improves river health.

The flow from the dam will support both horticulture and the domestic water wells near Appleby that supply water to the combined Richmond / Nelson water network. Māpua, Ruby Bay, Brightwater and Wakefield also use bores in the Waimea Plains, benefitting from the recharged aquifers.

The size of the reservoir mitigates the impact of a drought greater than a 1:50 year event.

Naming of the dam structures

In June 2023, Ngāti Koata blessed and named the reservoir and two bridges at the dam site. The spillway bridge was named after Nick Patterson.

Te Kurawai o Pūhanga | Reservoir

Just as a dam creates a reservoir of water that will be a life force for this area way into the future, Puhanga Hemi Tupaea of Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kuia, and Ngāti Toa from Te Tauihu (top of the South Island), holds a reservoir of knowledge in traditional Māori arts, crafts, music, and tikanga.

She has spent a lifetime feeding, sharing, instructing, and gifting to those she connects with. Those connections are strong, and they enrich and add beauty to the lives of others. Her creative designs are woven into the panels and paintings around several marae in Aotearoa, but especially in the wharenui, Kākati, at Whakatū Marae, Nelson.

Her tukutuku design, Whakaaro Kotahi, seen in the wharenui, is also on the New Zealand $100 note.

The Ngāti Koata Trust logo is also her design, which she gifted to a fledgling entity that has grown in strength over the decades. Her songs of tūpuna, experiences, and connections, both past and present, uplift, educate, and inspire.

Te Kurawai o Pūhanga, the reservoir behind the Waimea Community Dam, at full capacity.

Patterson Bridge | Spillway

Nick Patterson (A.O.) moved to Nelson in the 1970s. He quickly established himself as a leader in the horticultural and wider Nelson community. He and his partners established Wai-West Horticulture in the 1980’s growing a range of fruit crops on the Waimea Plains.

He recognised the certainty of water as a key factor in growing food crops to feed and support the local community, provide jobs, earn export revenue and boost the wider economic, social, and environmental needs. Nick was instrumental in establishing, along with other leading primary producers, Waimea irrigators Ltd (WIL), a group of irrigators profoundly affected by the seasonal shortages of water on the Waimea Plains.

He engaged with the wider irrigating community to find ways of funding its share of the Waimea Dam alongside the Tasman District Council (TDC).

He was the symbolic bridge between the 225 irrigation shareholders (WIL) and TDC to successfully establish this 100+ year community project.

 Water flows down the spillway and beneath the Nick Patterson bridge.