To be doomed or dammed is the question

Tasman district property owners are between a rock and a hard place over the increasingly critical issue of current and future water supply.

They will soon be faced with a decision on whether to go ahead with a dam at Lee Valley, now likely to cost more than the $40 million suggested in earlier reports, and which would secure supply and economic growth.

The other option facing them is a dwindling water supply and next to no economic growth in an area rich in primary production.

Urban supply would also soon be at its limit, and it was doubtful there would be enough water for future industrial development.

The stark realities facing property owners, who also face falling land values without a secure water supply, was evident among about 50 people at a public meeting in Appleby last week about the Waimea Water Management Plan change decisions.

The changes are among decisions on a number of changes to the Tasman Resource Management Plan [TRMP] and have paved the way for "significant changes" to the way water is managed in the district.

The Waimea Water Management plan change decisions deal with the possible provision of the Waimea Community Dam, and water allocation for the Waimea Plains if there is no dam.

Landowners heard that without a secure water supply, extreme restrictions on water use would be in place by 2016 based on river flow modelling.

Rural property valuer, farm management consultant and grape grower Brian Halstead said outside the meeting that in terms of any business growth, there was now no confidence for expansion in the horticulture industry.

"It is stalled until questions around the dam are solved."

He said that without the dam the future of the district was at risk.

But the basis of the mistrust was the high cost of the dam, and the cost of the water lumbered on people even if they did not use it.

The current assumption was the dam would be funded through a 70:30 split with 70 per cent of the cost paid by users and 30 per cent by the general ratepayers.

Landowners directly benefiting would also pay targeted rates.

According to 2012 figures, that meant increases of between $420 and $580 per hectare per year.

"People will have to walk off their land because they won't be able to afford the rates," one member of the audience said.