11 Nov 2015

Deadline reached for Ruataniwha Dam plan

4:17 pm on 11 November 2015

The self-imposed deadline for the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's investment company to complete the business case for the Ruataniwha Dam is today - and it has fallen short, Labour says.

Ruataniwha Dam

Ruataniwha Dam Photo: SUPPLIED / Isthmus Group

Labour water spokesperson Meka Whaitiri said the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) had sold only about half the minimum amount of water it needed to make construction viable.

Ms Whaitiri said it still had not announced any cornerstone investors to replace Trustpower and Ngai Tahu, who had pulled out.

She said she would not be surprised but would be very disappointed if the deadline was pushed out again.

"At some point it has to be said that enough is enough. To meet the water-contract threshold, farmers needed to sign up for 45 million cubic metres. A few days ago HBRIC said only about 25 million cubic metres of water, or just over 55 percent of the target, had been sold.

"We are over five years into this project, [the] council has already spent about $15 million of ratepayers' money on the development, and yet HBRIC is still scrambling at the last minute to find the necessary water uptake to satisfy its conditions."

She said the lack of a compelling business case was why Trustpower and Ngai Tahu had walked away - and why they had still not been replaced as cornerstone investors.

"Ratepayers are being put through a very drawn-out process because HBRIC still hasn't met the requirements of a sound investment.

"I sincerely hope that, today, the council is taking a long hard look at the future of this scheme, rather than using the time to come up with more excuses to push out deadlines."

No one from HBRIC was available for comment this morning.

'Secret meetings' over water

One local ratepayer, meanwhile, has accused the Central Hawke's Bay District Council of holding secret meetings over purchasing water from the dam in breach of the Local Government Act.

The district council - which is a different organisation to the regional council - is looking at purchasing water from the proposed scheme for the town's drinking supply.

It currently draws water from the Waipawa and Tukituki Rivers at no cost other than those of pumping and delivery infrastructure.

The ratepayer, Clint Deckard, said the council was discussing the plans in public-excluded meetings, but the interests being protected by holding the meetings in private had not been listed as required by the Local Government Act.

"By looking at the motion, there is no way for a ratepayer to tell whether there is a legitimate reason to discuss this is secret," he said.

"I think the public certainly have a right to know before decisions are made and certainly before contracts are signed to take water from the scheme to supply the towns of central Hawke's Bay, especially because they already have consents to take water from the rivers at no cost other than the consent cost.

"I suspect it's because there is going to be an additional cost to ratepayers by taking water from the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme since it is commercial and in the end it is going to cost ratepayers more. I can't imagine too many people are going to be happy about that."

Central Hawke's Bay District Council chief executive John Freeman said he could not go into details because it was a public-excluded meeting.

He said the interests being protected by holding the meeting in private tomorrow had now been listed, although Mr Deckard said there did not appear to be any change to the agenda online.

Mr Freeman said a statement would be issued after tomorrow's meeting and the public would be consulted.

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