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Ruataniwha consents approved in draft decision, ‘single nutrient’ approach rejected

The Tukituki Catchment Proposal Board of Inquiry has granted 17 resource consents relating to the $265 million Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme in a draft decision that would open more of the Hawke's Bay to irrigation.

This controversial scheme was opposed by environmental groups but opinion among local iwi was divided. It was referred to an independent board of inquiry headed by High Court judge Lester Chisholm in June 2013, attracting 384 submissions.

While the consents were approved, Labour's Conservation spokesperson Ruth Dyson said those opposed to the scheme had scored a victory in that the board rejected what is known as the "single nutrient" approach, where the focus was solely on the management of phosphorus in waterways, rather than phosphorous and nitrates.

The Board rejected that approach in favour of a 'dual nutrient' control which manages both phosphorus and nitrogen, according to its report. Dyson said the government had wanted the one nutrient model as a national benchmark. In ruling it out the board had protected the Tukituki River, she said.

Parties now have 20 days to make comments on minor or technical aspects of the report, although there is no scope to comment on the actual decision or the reasoning of the board.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council's investment arm, the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company, has said the scheme had the potential to supply water for irrigated farming and horticultural uses to between 25,000 and 30,000 hectares of land, and was expected to create about 2,520 jobs for the region.

Last month Trustpower, the electricity company controlled by Infratil, terminated its memorandum of understanding with HBRIC and fellow backer Ngai Tahu Holdings, which would have seen it invest between $50 million and $60 million of the total cost of the project. At the time Trustpower said the scheme wasn't within its risk and return framework.

Ngai Tahu has since expressed reservations about its continued involvement. Funding is required from the government's Crown Irrigation Investment Company under the plan for the scheme, but this will not be forthcoming without sufficient private sector backing.

The Green Party, which led political opposition to the scheme, said the decision was not surprising, given HBRC's support for it and alleged suppression of information about it by the government.

"The decision to significantly increase the amount of water which irrigators can take from the Ruataniwha aquifer risks repeating Canterbury's mistakes where overuse of groundwater has depleted and reduced the flows in spring fed streams and seen them polluted with nutrients," said the Greens' water spokeswoman, Eugenie Sage.

"There are also serious questions about the business case for the dam given a previous Treasury report which questioned the farm gate financial viability of irrigation schemes."


Comments and questions

It will never ever get off the ground, and if it does every Ratepayer in the district is going to payout big time, it is financially doomed, another huge Rate payer funded huge financial disaster, some one do the financial sums, it will cost about 400 million to build, what sort of return is required to service that sort of investment.....huge!!!!! there is no way anyone will be able to afford to buy the water, so household Rates will go through the roof!! it will be another failure to add to Splash Planet...the Museum...the Art Deco Buses....the Aquarium...Ocean Spa swimming pool now the proposed Dam, just how many failures can a district support!! and to top it all off, Hawkes Bay has the lowest household incomes in NZ!! BY FAR!!

Some facts in response. 1. Three NZ regions have significantly lower household average incomes (Gisborne, Manawatu, West Coast) and two are the same (Otago, Southland). 2. Irrigation in Canterbury has raised per hectare farmland values by 200% to 300% - this is based on increased economic returns which clearly would service a project costing several hundreds of millions. 3. Treasury has been opposed to irrigation initiatives for years (South Canterbury's Opuha Dam; Central Plains Canterbury). Ask Synlait or the Timaru farmers if it is worth it. 4. If you fear development and the wealth it brings go to somewhere else!

What we fear is that it is the people who own their own homes, who are going to stump up with the costs to build and supply this dam, we have no problem with the dam at all!!!! we have the problem of a local body helping themselves to our bank accounts via rate increases to fund this thing, why should I as a home owner, stump up and pay for a business expense that has nothing to do with me what so ever, if a farmer needs some water to increase his business turnover/production surely it is an expense for him to provide, as it is him that will reap any rewards and if necessary he might have to get a consortium of fellow farmers to band together to fund this...surely.
At a calculated guess I would estimate that around 40% of those affected rate payers will be on fixed incomes like pensions etc, and they are already suffering a 3% rates increase for the year without any other increases, like power 9% and colossal insurance increases, and now they are proposing to slug us with the cost of building a dam, where will it all stop?? if you ask a pensioner you will more than likely find that their disposable income has evaporated by about 15% this year, try running your own home on $548 per fortnight, it is nigh on impossible, without local bodies just helping themselves to whatever they like with no reply allowed..
The gripe is not the dam itself, it is who is paying for it!!!!! plus it will never ever return a profit!!!! so it is going to be a hangman's noose, around home owners necks for ever and a day!!!