Ruataniwha progress, but not a done deal yet

A number of commitments are subject to confirmation.

The Ruataniwha dam promoters have told Hawke's Bay regional councillors they have sufficient commitment to go ahead but opponents are sceptical.

The chief executive of the council-controlled dam company, Andrew Newman, says the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) has commitments for 42.8 cubic metres a year representing 196 landowners.

Mr Newman told NBR a number of these commitments are subject to the approval of trustees and owners.

The regional council is some distance off allocating funds of $80 million, as allowed for under the district's long-term plan.

Councillors received the report and now Mr Newman and his team will spend the next couple of months confirming the commitments and working through the capital requirements for the scheme with banks and financial supporters.

He would not be drawn on who the backers of the estimated $330 million scheme will be although ACC has been reported as one of them.

The irrigation lobby represented by Irrigation NZ’s chief executive Andrew Curtis view yesterday’s announcement as a victory, claiming the project is now ready to proceed.

Aside from the financial hurdles, there is also a legal challenge over a land swap with the Department of Conservation to be settled.

Labour's local government spokeswoman Meka Whaitiri is awaiting final confirmed figures.

Ms Whaitiri says the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company still has hurdles to clear and a lot of work to do before ratepayers and taxpayers will have confidence in the scheme.

“We need sustainable water management for all users in the region but, so far, many more things have gone wrong rather than right for Ruataniwha.

“HBRIC has contracted less than 43 million cubic metres of the 45 million cubic metre target it needed to have confirmed by April 18.

“I don’t believe a water scheme massively subsidised with public money, which will also lead to increased river pollution, is going to make this region wealthier.

“HBRIC has burned up a lot of goodwill with the public in the way it has managed this project so far.

“It needs to complete its contract negotiations and produce updated figures before it can expect the public to have confidence in this going ahead,” she says.

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