Importance of water to NZ’s future cannot be underestimated says retired engineer



“New Zealand requires a Ministry of Water.” So stated Ron Howard, a retired engineer who recently addressed the Veterans Division of the Pukekohe returned Services Association.

“New Zealand requires a Ministry of Water.” So stated Ron Howard, a retired engineer who recently addressed the Veterans Division of the Pukekohe returned Services Association.

Mr Howard provided a précis of his extensive research of the country’s water issues that have covered a 30 year span and, ironically, he has pre-empted the government, which had intended to bring out a report in June on the regionalisation of water through its 3 Waters Project.

He told his audience that he had made attempts to promote his ideas of establishing a Ministry of Water with a political party (he would not mention which party) but it had fallen on deaf ears.

“The politicians are in slumber mode,” he said.

His ‘Establishing a Ministry of Water’ document covers all aspects of managing water in New Zealand from ‘ownership’, ‘floods, droughts, storage and run-offs’, ‘measurements of water purity’, ‘governance structure and efficiency’, ‘export opportunities and vital economic advantages’, ‘providing access for Maori cultural opportunities’ and ‘arranging facilities for ‘varsity qualifications in hydrology’.

Mr Howard began his speech by referring to former Prime Minister, Sir John Key’s opinion regarding water ownership: “No-one owns the water” despite the fact that Maori have made claims to it, stated Mr Howard.

“Maori must accept the fact that water that comes out of the sky. Government must be strong on this issue, and that is the first thing that needs to be sorted out.

“It is a statistical fact we only utilise two percent of the water that falls from the sky and, as simple as it sounds, it is a starting point.”

Mr Howard talked about how, with his proposal, the diminishing aquifers could be replenished and this would help the farming sector, which has been hammered a lot in recent years but have done a great deal in their to improve the environment.

But, the big plus for the country overall is in the export sector: He outlined a little of his history as an engineer for Fletcher Bernard Smith, one of the companies involved in the development of the Manapouri Power project in the South Island between 1964 and 1971.

“Shafts were built 600 feet below ground level and the water went seven miles out to Deep Cove and out to sea. It is still doing that today. It is very, very pure.

“I’m saying to politicians that there is a marvellous opportunity to harness the millions of litres of pure water and send it to Australia and other countries which are facing shortages. Why not set up a State owned Enterprise (SOE) to take advantage of all this water?’

Mr Howard said he could see the time when water will be a commodity of exchange throughout the world.

“My prediction is there will be more water tankers than oil tankers in the future.”

Rex Warwood

Rex Warwood has held a life-long interest in New Zealand’s politics since beginning his career as a journalist with the Pukekohe-based newspaper, Franklin County News, in 1979

During his early days, he covered most aspects of local life from community news, court, council, business and sport, particularly sport and his passion, rugby.

He worked his way up to become Editor of the newspaper in 1986, a position he held for nine years before taking a temporary role as Editor of the Waiuku Post in 1997 In 1999 he established the Franklin Life Newspaper which he ran until his retirement in 2010.

He became a member of the Counties Rugby Union’s promotional team in 1975 and was appointed public relations officer as well as Editor of the match-day programme, a ‘labour of love’ which he carried out for 11 years.

In 1979 Counties, led by All Black skipper, Andy Dalton, won the New Zealand National Provincial Rugby Championship – the first and only time in the competition’s history – and Rex wrote a book on the season entitled Counties ’79 – Rugby Champions of New Zealand. This publication was highly sought after in the local community.

In 1988 Rex produced his second book, Struggle to The Top, and this project was also a ‘labour of love’. It was the author’s contribution to the Bombay Rugby Club’s centennial celebrations. Co-incidentally, the club’s senior team – also led by Andy Dalton – had won the Counties Rugby Union’s club championship title for the first time ever in the previous year, which made the celebrations all the more meaningful.

In 1992, the Counties Rugby Union (which changed its name to Counties Manukau Rugby Union in 1996 at the start of the professional era) awarded Rex the Media Trophy for his services to the union.

His recent years has seen him living on Auckland’s North shore in semi retirement writing freelance editorials. In between assignments, he wrote his first novel, The Long Frost – A Bloomsbury Family in Crisis. It was his first attempt at writing fiction and is a family saga set in London’s Victorian era and deals with London’s rapid expansion during the Industrial Revolution, which was, in the words of Charles Dickens: “The best of times and the worst of times.”


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