21 May 2014

Dam failed on 'economics not nitrate'

6:26 am on 21 May 2014

A farming consultant says the complaints about strict nitrate limits threatening to derail Hawke's Bay's Ruataniwha dam project are a red-herring, designed to deflect attention from the fact that the proposed irrigation scheme was never financially feasible.

Barrie Ridler is a former Massey University researcher who specialises in advising farmers and regional councils on the economics of reducing nitrogen leaching on farms, mostly dairy farms.

Mr Ridler said the economics around the proposed Ruataniwha scheme should have seen it fail well before the Board of Inquiry imposed nitrogen leaching limits.

He said the dam is hugely expensive and the figures used to promote it overly enthusiastic and that was why planned cornerstone investors Trustpower and Ngai Tahu had walked away.

"The problem was they went wrong when the regulator becomes the promoter. And so really what they did then was they looked at one would have to say the best possible scenario in about 10 or 12 different parts of what is a jigsaw. It's really a very complex jigsaw puzzle and they've been creating very expensive pieces of jigsaw but when you try and put all of those together it doesn't actually fit."