Dam promoters face wide public opposition
HAWKE'S BAY REPORTER
If promoters of a huge dam in Hawke's Bay were expecting a favourable response from the region's ratepayers, they will be sorely disappointed by the 161 submissions they have received.
The submissions are on the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's Tukituki Choices document, which outlines options for the future of the Tukituki River. The river's water is over-allocated, meaning its summer flow is too low, resulting in poor water quality and excessive periphyton.
Two of the options put forward for consultation require cutting back the water available for irrigators, and two involve construction of a $230 million dam on a tributary of the Tukituki to provide water to irrigators and reduce demand on river water.
The submission period ended on October 15, but the council is refusing to make the submissions public until Monday, two days before a council meeting at which councillors decide whether to seek resource consent to build the dam.
The Dominion Post has obtained copies of all submissions, most of which oppose the dam. Many raise questions over the council's role in promoting the scheme and the shortage of time in which to make submissions.
Some submissions run to several pages, while others are only one line.
Many say the council discussion document displayed a bias toward the dam by painting a glowing picture of the economic effects of land intensification and a dire picture if the dam does not proceed.
Murray Mills said submitters struggled with the huge number of documents and the short submission period and felt it was a "virtual fait accompli rather than an open discussion paper".
Several were concerned that the proposed irrigation area would turn into a small number of big dairy farms that could be owned by foreigners, resulting in fewer jobs and less income than expected.
Some were angry that the dam would cause nitrate levels in the Tukituki to rise when they felt the objective was to improve water quality. They questioned how the council had allowed over-allocation to happen in the first place.
"What started as an attempt to clean up water in the Tukituki catchment . . . has morphed into a single monster dam," Phyllis Tichinin said.
Others questioned why ratepayers should fund a project that would benefit a relatively small group of farmers.
Bruno Chambers, a farmer and irrigator beside the river for more than 25 years, said the "lily is being gilded at every turn" by the council in a bid to get the dam across the line.
Several Maori organisations opposed the dam, with Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, submitting for 11 marae and lands trusts, saying it opposed a dam but, if one went ahead, it would like 10 cents per cubic metre of water to go to tangata whenua for environmental and cultural projects.
Hawke's Bay DHB said the proposal could result in unsafe groundwater nitrate levels, leading to increased gastro-intestinal illness, and that the council's assessment of health effects was inadequate.
"We hope it is possible for the DHB and council to work together to address concerns before [the] council commits further very significant investment on the part of our shared community," DHB chief executive Kevin Snee said.
The construction of the dam is supported by DairyNZ, Fonterra, Federated Farmers, Pipfruit NZ, Silver Fern Farms, Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce, and Central Hawke's Bay District Council. Others to support the dam, with conditions, are Hawke's Bay Winegrowers Association, Horticulture NZ and Hastings District Council.
A regional council spokeswoman said the council would not comment on submissions until after Wednesday's meeting.
She said the submissions had not been made public "out of respect to those who have sent in comments and to allow councillors to give genuine consideration to all the comments without any external pressure".
- © Fairfax NZ News