Wairarapa dam busters march through Masterton

6:50 pm on 22 December 2020

A 40-strong crowd of protestors marched against a proposed dam in Wairarapa today.

Protestors against a proposed dam near Masterton march down the town's Queen St.

Protestors against a proposed dam near Masterton march down the town's Queen St. Photo: LDR / WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

Dozens of campaigners from a range of environmental groups met outside Greater Wellington Regional Council's Wairarapa office in Masterton, joined in opposition to the Wakamoekau community water storage scheme [WCWSS].

The reservoir, if built, would hold up to 19 million cubic metres of water and supply about 28 million cubic metres a year.

A "go no-go" is due by 2022, with a target date in 2026 for operation.

The action came as Wairarapa Water Ltd (WWL), the company behind the scheme, lodged draft consent papers.

WWL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Wairarapa Regional Irrigation Trust, a charitable trust with headquarters a few blocks further down Queen St.

Opponents targeted a lack of public scrutiny, as well as energy and environmental concerns.

Leaders of mana whenua Rangitāne o Wairarapa criticised the company this week, saying the scheme proposed near Masterton lacked an assessment of its cultural impact, and had yet to conduct public consultation.

The group, including Masterton District councillor Chris Peterson and former Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Marama Fox, made its way in a loop around Queen and Chapel streets.

The parade made a circuit of Masterton's central business district, calling in at Masterton District Council headquarters before returning to lodge the statement.

Mike Birch, one of the organisers of the campaign, handed over a letter of objection to regional council officials after the march.

Birch read the letter to the party, and took signatures, before they marched.

He said a draft consent application should not be accepted if it did not include a cultural assessment from Rangitāne o Wairarapa.

"We share Rangitāne o Wairarapa's concerns about the project.

"So far the project has continued with very little public scrutiny, and very little information is available to the affected parties about the environmental effects of the scheme, how the scheme would give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai.

"We feel much more consultation is needed."

WWL chief executive officer Robyn Wells said the company had "openly and publicly communicated through the year and has sought to engage with impacted parties".

Wells said a draft cultural impact assessment from Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, an iwi also mana whenua to Wairarapa, had been submitted.

A final resource consent application for the WCWSS is due to be lodged at the end of February 2021.

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