Call for greater use of Marlborough's Wairau River by farmers amid near-drought conditions

A deeper look in how Marlborough addresses its water storage problem is needed as the region verges on drought conditions, according to the local Federated Farmers President. 

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Marlborough branch president Philip Neal spoke to Breakfast amid the region’s record dry spell. Source: Breakfast

Last month, Marlborough experienced its second driest January in 90 years and in the last five years alone has seen three of the driest months of January ever recorded.

Phillip Neal, Marlborough Federated Farmers President, says the Wairau River needs to be optimised for water use year round to support Blenheim and farmers who rely on the local aquifer. 

"I think 98 percent of all the water that comes down the Wairau just goes out to sea, we should be capturing some of that. I feel, because water is the new gold isn't it?"

A bigger dam to support the community in needed to prevent the council from imposing water restrictions says Mr Neal. 

Once the aquifer reaches a certain level, local government imposes restrictions on how farmers can use water, preventing them from using it for irrigation. 

"I think for the health of the river, for irrigators and for Blenheim itself, because Blenheim’s water comes from the aquifer that flows through, we've got to have more water storage," says Mr Neal.  

A discussion with Government, he believes, may not happen until the bigger urban cities start to run out of water because of drought.