Councilors behind Dodgy Dam going ahead anyway… without water

…the Appeals Court upheld the Forest & Bird appeal challenging DoC’s decision to downgrade, and swap to the Regional Council’s holding company (HBRIC), conservation land necessary for the CHB dam .

Without that land, there’s no reservoir for the dam to fill.

This is a huge victory for the environment, with important ramifications beyond Hawke’s Bay, because — without this legal block — DoC otherwise could have used the same shonky process to downgrade and trade conservation land elsewhere in NZ. Forest & Bird deserve great credit for their  vigilance and persistance on the issue.

Where does this leave the dam? Certainly ‘on hold’ through the election window.

HBRIC chairman Andy Pearce told the Regional Council meeting today that he and his team were seeking to meet with the chief executive of DoC as soon as possible to review DoC’s plans. You can see the brief discussion on HBRC video when posted Thursday.

One option for DoC is to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Or, DoC could follow the directive of the Appeals Court and re-consider the proposed swap after a proper due course procedure, which would take time to organise and conduct, and the subsequent decision could also be legally challenged. [Of course, another option, less likely, would be for DoC to abandon the matter.]

DoC and HBRIC will have a few weeks to sort out their next steps, if an appeal is to be taken.

HBRIC could pursue another tack … use the Public Works Act to simply seize the land, claiming and overriding public good purpose. However that avenue too would involve an extensive process and potential legal review.

Today I offered an amendment to the HBRIC report which proposed that, before proceeding with further action, HBRIC be required to present for Council approval any plan to appeal or otherwise seek to secure the Ruahina Forest Park land at issue.

My resolution failed 5-4. Councillors Barker, Beaven and Graham supported it; Councillors Wilson, Dick, Hewitt, Scott and Pipe opposed.

My point: if the holding company we own, as the region’s environmental authority, wants to try to outmanoeuvre the legal decision that protected this conservation land, then councillors should have the balls to specifically authorise that action.

Not surprisingly, five councillors voted effectively today to give HBRIC free rein.

So HBRIC is free to pursue any further stratagem to grab the land, without further Council review.

Unless HBRIC succeeds, it’s hard to imagine any institutional investor coughing up $80 million to build a dam without a reservoir!

As for HBRC, it will do with its $80 million whatever five councillors wish to do.

Make sure you know where Regional Council candidates stand on the issue.

People in the Bay need to make sure they are voting for the people that support their preferred outcome.  As it is, the dam and reservoir look (dare I write this) dead in the water.


– Tom Belford


  • Ceebee

    There is something wrong with local bodies vesting such critical decision-making into sub-entities without full council voting. HBRIC is now free to spend ratepayers money on pursuing any manner of losing arguments without oversight.

    There should be some delegated financial authority (DFA) provision in local government regulation which says investment decisions can not be delegated above a certain % of annual rate income. $80m is too huge an amount for Hawkes Bay Regional Councillors not to be required to have full voting on every major decision on the way.

    I think they are using HBRIC as a way to shield councillors from the impacts of the decision-making. I foresee that later on they will use an argument of plausible deniability to absolve themselves from any disaster – “we didn’t make the decisions – they did”.

    • biscuit barrel

      Yes you are right there. But having CCOs is the way they do these things now.

      the other problem which isnt discussed much as the earthquake fault lines which run through the area. This is the Mohaka fault in the Ruahine foothills behind Waipukerau. Its a class I fault line like the Alpine but there others close by which occur less frequently such as Ruahine, Ruataniwha. But its likely alarge earthquake in one fault will trigger others nearby like Chistchurch

      More details at :Active Fault Mapping and Fault Avoidance Zones
      for Central Hawkes Bay District: 2013 Update

  • F T Bear

    I might not know all the political ins and outs of the HBRC and HBRIC, but from what I understand is they have meet the conditions and support levels etc. that have been imposed.Tom Belford might not like the result because it doesn’t suit his agenda but that is the democratic process. He appears to be upset that the 5-4 vote is some how wrong or dodgy, it’s the democratic process. If the dam doesn’t get off the ground that will be the democratic process.
    Personally I think the diggers should have been down there two yeas ago.

    I do find an irony in the fact that Councillors Belford, Graham, Beavan, and Barker, got elected to HBRC at the last election with a lobby of sorting the previous council out.
    They were upset because the HBRC was doing there job and protecting the low flow level of another river. They wanted the council to break the rules, the lobby group wanted to keep taking water they were not entitled to.
    Perhaps what they should have done a few years ago when the water restrictions started to happen more often was gain a consent and drill a deep bore to guarantee their supply, just like the water bottling plants did. Perhaps if the 4 Councillors above had been a bit more proactive in the council instead of having a big sook at Fenton Wilson they might have not been voted down 5-4 on everything for the past 3 years.

  • Bruno 32

    when drought takes over the Bay those opposed to storing water for use in the hard times need to be held accountable . Common sense seems to have flown out the door .

    • Andrewj

      Irrigation water gets used for intensification not drought proofing. Drought proofing would be a way too expensive an option.