Update 27/2/24 - If you would like to receive NZPPI's regular Wellington water restriction updates via email, please contact email@example.com
Wellington nurseries and garden centres should be furious with Wellington Water, Wellington City Council and Wellington Regional Council.
Following one of the wettest winters on record and despite storage system and rivers being full, water suppliers have imposed Level 2 restrictions on water use that use specifically targeted at our industry. Looking ahead the authorities have signalled a 60% chance of severe restrictions on outdoor water use this summer, which includes a full ban on watering gardens. This would bring plant sales to a grinding halt.
The situation highlights the risk faced by our industry as water suppliers sit down and make choices about who will bear the burden of water shortages. Almost always the first targets are home gardeners. This affects businesses locally, but our industry is highly connected, meaning a reduction in plant sales in any region affects suppliers elsewhere. Restrictions also risk skilled jobs.
Level 2 restrictions target greenlife and gardening while ignoring other industries. For example, the region's craft beer producers use 155 litres of water to brew one litre of IPA while a coffee barista uses five litres for a flat white.
We know from experience that water suppliers use home gardening as their go-to solutions because it is visible and they believe that it's an easy way to connect with the public. However, if they did their maths they would realise that water restrictions on gardening gives them tiny savings but comes with the disproportionate impact on our industry and the community. Wellington and Porirua have less than five hectares or irrigated land (Stats NZ) and a rough calculation of the output of a typical garden hose shows that, with their best combined effort, the region's gardeners would use less than 2% of the 30 billion litres of water used in the region per year.
We are seeking meetings with Wellington Water and Wellington City Council to discuss the following changes:
- Restrictions to watering gardens should be amongst the last options
- Early (Level 2) restrictions should be applied to other industries
- Water restrictions at any level should exclude plants that support food security, wellbeing and the environment
- Future communications and media statements about water use and restrictions should not focus on gardening
- Recognition of businesses that implement industry standards for efficient water use (NZPPI has a Code of Practice for sustainable water management)
- Policies and restrictions should be based on analysis, not just target one industry.
Regional water restrictions are nothing new and no region is immune. In the past five years we have just avoided water being shut off to nurseries in Nelson, Bay of Plenty and Auckland. This year it's Wellington and Canterbury's turn.
We have been told to prepare for more frequent and severe water restrictions due to climate variability and crumbling infrastructure. As an industry we need a plan to work collectively to prepare for this.
If you have any feedback on this issue please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, especially if your business has been impacted by a reduction in sales to Wellington region retailers, landscapers and other clients.
We will keep you updated on our advocacy in this area.
Matt Dolan, CE, NZPPI