PARADISE FADING? Water cuts by the Waikato Regional Council threaten to turn Hobbiton brown. It's the region's driest summer in five years and, with no rain in sight, Matamata best known tourist attraction may become three hectares of parched grass and stressed plants. Photo: BRUCE MERCER / Fairfax NZBy Matt Bowen
26 February 2013

(Fairfax NZ News) – Bilbo Baggins' lush green shire could have the life sucked out of it after Waikato's undeclared drought restricted Hobbiton's water supply.

It's the region's driest summer in five years and, with no rain in sight, Matamata’s best known tourist attraction may become three hectares of parched grass and stressed plants.

Losing the green image threatens to damage Hobbiton's international image and could cost thousands of dollars to fix, manager Russell Alexander said yesterday.

The film set, that featured in both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, has enjoyed an unprecedented summer of business.

About 50,000 people walked through the grounds since Christmas under predominantly clear skies. Hobbiton is still an oasis of green in a sea of baking brown, but its fertile look comes courtesy of a sophisticated spring-fed irrigation system.

Hobbiton's resource consent conditions with the Waikato Regional Council state that when river levels drop to a certain level, so does their allowable take.

Before the restriction came into force the daily allowance was 200,000 litres but it has been squeezed to 67,000 litres.

"It's very serious," Mr Alexander said.

"I'm hoping to work with the regional council to figure out my options."

Waikato Regional Council spokesman Stephen Ward said the council sympathised with all water users but the restrictions in place reflected the new policies in the regional plan.

"For some time the regional council and district councils have been reminding people to use water wisely," he said. "We have also been reminding resource consent holders that their water takes may be restricted due to the low river flows. Those restrictions are now in place … where river flows have hit trigger levels.

"This is affecting places like Hobbiton, residential users, farmers with consents and other consent holders." [more]

Hobbiton set to shrivel in Waikato drought

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