Hawke's Bay regional councillors agreed to invest up to $80 million in the controversial Ruataniwha dam today.
Each of the nine councillors spoke to the staff recommendation to proceed with the investment provided certain conditions were met, voting six to three in favour.
A crowd of about 40 people attended the meeting.
A government-appointed board of inquiry has already released a draft decision on the $275 million scheme and is due to make a final decision on the resource consent application by the end of the week.
The dam, which would irrigate 25,000 hectares in Hawke's Bay, has become a symbol of the ''economics v environment'' argument, with some critics saying the board's draft decision has swung too far in favour of the environment.
The decision contained restrictions on how much nitrogen could leach into the Tukituki River catchment from surrounding farms and horticulture operations, which one regional council paper said would remove ''the ability of the [Ruataniwha dam] to be a viable commercial model'' and result in a regional loss of about $50m a year.
For the project to go ahead it will need substantial investment from institutional investors and water supply contracts with farmers for at least 40 million cubic metres of water a year.
Ngai Tahu Holdings Corporation and Trustpower pulled out of their possible $100m investment in the scheme in April.
- The Dominion Post
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