New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato River, flows through the district, sustaining it and supporting major infrastructure. However, water is considered a precious resource and water allocation, water storage and water quality are significant issues for the region. Its use is carefully monitored and subject to a strict regulatory regime.
Waikato-based irrigation schemes include those at Glenbrook, Te Kauwhata and Pukerimu. However, most irrigation is undertaken by individual irrigators taking surface or ground water directly.
Soil quality (productive)
Some of New Zealand’s best and most productive soils are in the wider Waikato region. However increased residential subdivision has seen the availability of these soils for productive purposes decrease. Waikato District Council has introduced new rules through district plan changes to stem subdivision on highly versatile and productive soils.
There are 14 separate coalfields in the Waikato region, producing high-quality thermal coal. The region provides a significant proportion of coal for domestic use (38 per cent in 2010) and there is a regional interdependence between coal supply, industry and electricity generation.
As at 2012, it was estimated there were around two billion tonnes of coal in the ground. However, the Waikato’s coal resources are becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to access.
Oil and gas
While the Waikato is considered to have little oil and gas potential, some work has been done by Solid Energy to trial the recovery of methane from deep coal seams. The 2012 Petroleum Block Offer strategy proposed extending permitted onshore and offshore exploration, including out to the west coast of the Waikato district.
Industrial minerals and precious metals
Waikato is the most mineral-rich region in New Zealand and in 2006 produced almost seven million tonnes of aggregate and industry metals. Nearly half was sent to other parts of New Zealand. The wider region has 70 aggregate quarries, 20 sand extraction operations, five limestone quarries and five industrial mineral producers.
Renewable Energy generation
Waikato is a major energy region, producing up to one third of the nation’s total renewable (non-thermal) electricity.
Almost 40 per cent of installed generation capacity is in the Waikato including five thermal plants, 10 hydro plants, seven geothermal plants and one wind farm. The district’s 28-turbine wind farm is located at Te Uku near Raglan. It can generate enough renewable energy each year to fuel around 28,000 average New Zealand homes.
The New Zealand Energy Strategy aims to have 90 per cent of all electricity needs being met by renewable forms of energy by 2025. With infrastructure and personnel in place, the Waikato is poised to play a key role in the energy sector in the future.
The Waiuku Forest is 13km south of Waiuku, at the mouth of the Waikato River. The 1508 hectare Pinus Radiata forest is owned by Crown Forestry and managed by New Zealand Forest Managers. In the same location is the New Zealand Steel iron sand mining operation.