Fat Tony fires up on the Dodgy Socialist Dam

Labour’s best ever fundraiser and solid operator behind the scene, Mike ‘Fat Tony’ Williams is fired up over the dodgy socialist dam.…and for a socialist that means something.

IT’S THE Local Authority Election season and I hope that given the contaminated water disaster in Havelock North, local voters will be more engaged with the process than they were last time round when only about four in ten eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.

Having sold my property in Havelock North, I won’t have a vote this time, but as many of my family still makes its home in the Bay, I will be rattling many cages.

I will watch the results of the Regional Council election with great interest.

With the drinking water disaster in Havelock North, the local election should turn into a referendum on water management and as this a Regional Council responsibility; it is that Council that is and should be in the cross-hairs.

Yes, it should. It has become clear that the councils have no control over the waterways, either by design or through indolence and sloppy governance.

At present The Regional Council is divided five votes to four on the on the biggest water project, the proposed Ruataniwha Dam, with a narrow majority in favour of this massive gamble with your money.

The group of Councillors driving the project consists of Alan Dick, David Pipe and Christine Scott representing Napier, Chairman Fenton Wilson from Wairoa and Debbie Hewitt from Central Hawke’s Bay.

They would be desperately hoping that the whole matter was settled before the election which might well upset their plan for the dam.

I believe the water scares have proved to the voters that assurances from their elected representatives aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. A clean out of ratbags is needed.

With The Appeal Court ruling that the process used to acquire protected conservation land to flood for the dam was unlawful, plus the absence of the required major investor, the final decision on the dam must now be made by the new Regional Council which will be elected on October 8th.

Four Councillors, Rex Graham, Rick Barker, and Tom Belford, representing Hastings and Peter Beaven from the Ngaruroro constituency, while not necessarily opposed to the scheme have continually counselled caution.

To get some common sense into this debate, Messrs Beaven, Graham, Barker and Belford need to win their seats again and gain the support of one more councillor.

With councillors Pipe and Scott retiring at this election, it will only take one of the two new Napier councillors to vote with the four to get a proper review of water policy, to send the dam scheme back to the drawing board and to get some intelligence into the management of water.

The proposed dam, the Tukituki River and the aquifers which provide drinking water in Hawke’s Bay, including Napier, are all parts of the same system united by the law of gravity.

The statement that the contamination of the Havelock North drinking water supply could “probably” not arise from the Tukituki River, coming from the same officials that couldn’t tell us how much water was in the aquifers, is nonsense.

Utter nonsense.

From a distance, it is difficult to understand the continued enthusiasm for the Ruataniwha project.

At the time the dam was first mooted, the price for dairy products was sky-high, intensive livestock farming was seen as a path to prosperity and I have no doubt that the originators of the scheme expected the irrigation water to go to dairy farm conversions.

With the steep fall in dairy prices which are only now slowly recovering; this rationale for the dam has long gone.

While the supporters of this project claim that there are enough sign-ups for the water to make the project viable, there remains doubt about whether the Region’s ratepayers will have to fund shortfalls or if the Region will need to burden the Port of Napier with debt or privatise this asset.

The assumptions in the dam plan were utterly heroic, needing dairy prices to be well double what they are currently.

The Regional Council’s management of Hawke’s Bay’s water resources is sloppy to put it mildly.

Regional Chairman, Fenton Wilson was unable to tell Radio New Zealand whether feed lots required Resource Management Act consent; however the answer to this question came in an article in yesterday’s edition of Hawke’s Bay Today when an unnamed spokeswoman for the Regional Council admitted that feed lots do not require resource consent.

Victoria White, the Hawke’s Bay Today reporter who extracted this confession should go further and find out just how many feed lots along the Hawke’s Bay rivers are properly monitored.

My guess is that the answer in none.

My column last week mentioned a large feed lot near the Tukituki River and a reader emailed me the following (names redacted).

“The feed lot you mentioned is (redacted) farm which is part of (redacted) Farms. He has between 1000-1500 head of cattle on the shingle at any one time”.

I cannot verify this statement (though I think I have found the site on Google Earth) so I have supplied the deleted bits to Victoria White and will look forward to her investigation.
The new Regional Council will need to focus on its responsibility to manage the region’s water resources.

Forget the dam and clean up the drinking water instead.

Your vote counts!

Yes, it does.


– HB Today

  • Ben

    And on radio this morning I heard an idiot from HBRC bemoaning government plans to remove GMO decision making powers from local authorities. Since it seems LAs cannot even deliver safe water we hardly want them having anything to do with GMOs. They would either have an outright ban from sheer ignorance or they would make decisions that will result in headless chickens running around; just like the average councillor.

    • Second time around

      Labour is opposed to the local government amendment act which could force local authorities to merge certain services in order to make them viable and suitable for purpose. The days of Havelock North having 100% control of its water supply are past- the residents deserve safe supply even if there are people in the community who prefer raw milk and raw water in their GMO free, unvaccinated worlds.

  • Seriously?

    Perception is reality. Say it often enough, and it must be true…

    I’m not a fan of the dam, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the gastro outbreak in Havelock had anything at all to do with pollution in the Tukituki. Zero. There is plenty of evidence that strongly suggests it did not.

    When a scientist says something “probably” didn’t happen, please don’t grasp their careful unwillingness to talk in absolutes as suggesting the alternative is equally as probable.

    • biscuit barrel

      ‘Plenty of evidence ..suggest it did not’
      Whats that, a computer model based on another computer model of how groundwater flows in the area of the bores ?. Oh those models werent developed to track groundwater or artesian pollution anyway
      Its nice to know you have your evidence which is just a sophisticated guess

      • Second time around

        You are not proposing that it does actually come from the Tukituki stream? The computer modelling or whatever says that was ever only a remote possibility, so why not explore the more likely ones first?

        • biscuit barrel

          Yes I am. The idea that the artesian water isnt remote, its highly likely. We have the type of bacteria as linked to cattle so we can just look along the river for something that looks like that ‘and’ produces large amounts of waste.
          Its called the bleeding obvious method.

          • Second time around

            The “type of bacteria linked to cattle” (I think linked to cows and or sheep and or deer in the original report) is a pretty broad specification, not in any way unique to that river. To be “bleedingly obvious” you would at least require the river to be a known or plausible source of the aquifer.

          • biscuit barrel

            There have been graphics/photos on this blog which show that the river is just a plausible source in the area of the town supply bores.
            Testing of bores for e-coli has been shown to not be a reliable method of showing contamination. Sheer bad luck ( for those who got sick) was one description of a test that came up ‘clear’

      • Seriously?

        There was no campylobacter found in the river.

        There was no campylobacter found in the bores between the river and the ones that were compromised. Or for that matter any other bores that draw on the same aquifer.

        Campylobacter survives in water for about a week. The experts say that any recharge from the Tukituki to the aquifer takes some 200 days to infiltrate.

        No, it seem fairly clear already that some form of overland flow of contamination has infiltrated the bore due to lack of maintenance or poor design of the bore itself. I suppose you cannot rule out deliberate sabotage or very localised infiltration of the aquifer but they seem fairly unlikely. But as to the river… I think we have ignore that as being so improbable that it does not warrant serious consideration even if they cannot rule it out completely.

        • biscuit barrel

          Overland flow ?
          I understand the river was never tested for campylobacter regulary. E coli is just used as an ‘indicator’ test.

          remember this statement form HBRC
          “The council’s resource management group manager, Iain Maxwell, told councillors at Wednesday’s meeting that the wording of Monday’s media release stating the Tukituki was in the clear may have been “unfortunate”.

          and this
          “It now appears all but certain that a routine test of the Havelock North water supply showed it was clear of E.coli when it cannot have been.
          The same test procedure is used by councils around the country, and its apparent failure in Havelock North may result in a reappraisal of whether current testing standards are robust enough….”

          Its clear that the current testing methods cant be relied on , like some are doing.
          Artesian groundwater models are also being relied on to track groundwater pollution when thats not what were designed for either

        • WaterGirl

          Campylobacter survives for 120 days in water during cooler temperatures. HBRC have told me they do not test for campylobacter they test for e coli as an indicator. Levels of e coli found do not represent levels of campylobacter. It is necessary to then test for campylobacter which was not done at any point prior to the outbreak. River water can infiltrate much quicker in particular circumstances. One of those is when the ground is cracked which was the case here with a very dry winter. HBRC have acknowledged this. Then if there is a weather event as happened it increases the chance of contamination. The layer protecting the groundwater is very thin unlike the large confined secure aquifer that supplies Hastings.

          • Seriously?

            Thanks for that WG.

            I was going by what was reported (naive of me perhaps). I’ve done a bit of searching and found a study that looked at how the bacteria survive in water of 4 and 25 degrees in temp, and they observed the sort of thing you mention. At 25 degrees the bacteria lived for 3 days before falling below detectable levels, and at 4 degrees that took 21-28 days.

            The study was looking at a particular form of the bacteria, so I don’t know if that matters. Here is a link http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4688295/

            Where did you get the 120 days from?

            I’m quite interested in this topic, so would appreciate more information if you have the time to direct me to it.

          • WaterGirl

            It is a fascinating area, Seriously. Two of my sources are Pepper Maier & Gerba in Environmental Microbiology and the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 10(11):5886-907 • November 2013 and there are more. But even more interesting are studies that show how small changes in DNA allow campylobacter jejuni to behave in unexpected ways. DHB tell me it was jejuni that was identified and not any of the other 17 species and 6 subspecies. A forensic approach which includes a full DNA profile of the genotypes identified at potential sources and the Brookvale bores and Havelock distribution system and patients could be very revealing. There is another area of investigation that needs to be looked at closely and tested for and that is the use of ferric chloride at the Waipawa Wastewater & Sewage Treatment plants. This was stopped some 3 weeks ago according to Steve Thrush and they are now using alum. It would be a good idea to test the Havelock bores for ferric chloride as well.

          • Seriously?

            Hi again WG

            I’d be interested in your take on these two maps that were in a stuff article. One shows the relative location of the river, the bores that were contaminated, and those that tested clear. The other is close to the bores, and shows locations at which significant e.coli contamination was found in surface water.

            These bores are not sophisticated things (image of one also attached). It seems to me that the most likely explanation is that the heavy rain we has the week before the problems carried contaminated surface water into the bores – be that because of poor design, poor maintenance, or just bad luck.

          • F T Bear

            I don’t want to interfere, but some perspective might help. The river is about 1.5km away based a previous map on this blog.
            The river was in flood but was contained in side it’s stop banks, roughly the treeline, there may well have been some surface water but flooding was not a huge problem that day, full drains, etc. may a little over roads in places but not a “flood”

          • Seriously?

            Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that the rain cause river water to flood surrounding land. That didn’t happen. I think the arrows on the maps are intended to depict the direction of the underground recharge of river to aquifer.

  • Hailstormers

    If the HBRC can’t manage a few bores they can’t and won’t be able to manage a bloody dam. I’ll vote those who oppose the dam.

    • F T Bear

      There are according to the HBRC more than 8000 bores in the catchment, hardly a few. I still think that is where some of the problem might be, they don’t really know

      • Hailstormers

        Sorry FTB I didnt make myself clear. I should have said only 3.

  • Peter

    This doesn’t make sense.
    The dam is not all about dairy. Its about sheep and beef, cropping, horticulture, and dairy. Just saying it is doesn’t make it so.
    Feedlots have nothing do with an irrigation project.
    Havelock Nth water supply has nothing to do with the dam. The water systems are not even connected.
    This post seems to have more to do with trying to throw as much cow poo as possible at the issue to see what sticks, than present a balanced argument!

    • biscuit barrel

      The boundary between the two artesian systems overlaps where the bore are. Its only a computer model so its of limited grid resolution.

      ” Its about sheep and beef, cropping, horticulture, and dairy. Just saying it is doesn’t make it so.” But you are saying just what the promoters and those that install irrigation systems like you ‘are just saying as well’
      Strangely the dam will restrict those in lower Tukituki who have taken water directly from the river for horticulture for 50 years or more.

      • F T Bear

        Those in the lower Tuki Tuki will have more restrictions even if the dam doesn’t go ahead, because the river is degraded now . The only thing that will allow them to take water in the middle of summer now will be the dam.

        • No it won’t…the nutrient headroom will prevent that too.

        • biscuit barrel

          I read a submission from a Haumoana orchardist whos family whos been taking water directly from the river since the 1930s say changes to the minimum flows will mean a secure water source for irrigation in this area will be gone.

          • F T Bear

            Thats kind of my point, Plan 6 changes will limit what goes on in the lower river anyway.Plan 6 changes will be enforced even if the dam doesn’t go ahead , as I understand it. The dam will secure a more secure supply

        • Peter

          My prediction is that without the dam but with plan 6 implemented anybody with a business in the area should start making plans to shift. The greenies might want to start a Ashram down there or something on all the vacated land. That will thrive…

      • Peter

        I am not parroting what the promoters say. I have been talking to farmers for about 2 years now about irrigation. I have yet to speak to someone with a dairy farm. They are all sheep and beef, horticulture or croppers….

        • biscuit barrel

          Thats because there isnt any currently, the nearest dairy farmers are out of the rain shadow down by Norsewood.

  • F T Bear

    Councillors Beaven, Barker, Belford, and Graham, got elected last time on a ticket that mainly said they were going to get the HBRC changed because the Twyford lobby group of growers wanted to take water from a river that they weren’t entitled to.
    It seems a little ironic that now they are all about protecting the river when last time they wanted to suck more water out of the Ngaruroro when it was already at its low flow limit.
    It was reported here in one of yesterdays articles on this subject that Fat Tony was maybe mates with Peter Beaven, maybe this article and the one in the HB Today are like a party political broadcast. Not that I get a vote in that ward but Fat Tonys endorsement would be enough reason for me not to tick Beaven

  • axeman

    So I reckon the dam is a good thing as storing water just make sense. Plus it guarantees better minimum flows through summer, I had the opportunity to pass by the Tuki over the summer and it was more of a dribble than a river so it’s no wonder that its health is not good.
    But the conditions of it must be all properties must be fenced at least with a 50-100 metre buffer zone planted. CHB has got to do better with it sewage treatment, any stock caught within the buffer zone is forfeited to the Council.

    • F T Bear

      In it’s simplistic form the river is in trouble has been for a long time. There are many users , ( rightly or wrongly) The HBRC have been rightly beaten up over it’s condition. So they have come up with a plan to try and fix the problem while trying to appease all the users.
      The dam will guarantee water when they want it, changes are being made to the users and how they use it. It will all take a bit of time, but all users will have to make there own adjustments.

      • biscuit barrel

        The HBRC isnt trying to ‘fix the (river) problem’, they are trying to rescue Waipukarau and Waipawa from decline. All that fairly flat land is mostly used for low income producing sheep when they see the white gold boom in the South Island.
        The dam guaranteeing water flow is just another myth as the cost for that being the purpose would have the area in fits of laughter.

        • F T Bear

          The rescue of Waipukarua and Waipawa is not the main focus of the HBRC, any benefit to them will be as a consequence of what happens after the dam. To say the are not trying to fix the problem implies the are trying to destroy the river , I think that is a bit disingenuous.
          You are right about the land being relatively low income producing, but I have yet to see any reported intention from farmers to go into large scale dairy, there may well be some, but in the main it will corporate orchards, grapes, and cropping. The ability to grow two crops in a season with guaranteed water will be game changing to those who have had to sell everything in a dry summer.

          • biscuit barrel

            The cost per m3 for the water supply is probably too high to support this sort of quaint farmers market produce. Yes the irrigation suppliers will come up with spreadsheets which ‘make it work’ but they arent farmers. Ironically the very low interest rates should be an advantage but the risk suggest otherwise. Getting a long term contract for beetroot ??.
            I can point to any number of existing farms for sale that would have better water supply and better soils and better climate for such an investment.
            As for dairying, by now you are right, the banks wouldnt touch a conversion today but the dream was different 5 years back.
            Maintaining river flows over summer, if that was the primary reason, it would probably be done with a number of smaller dams in the foothills at a much lower capital cost.
            [Edit] added missing words

          • F T Bear

            Hey I can’t argue the numbers.
            What I do know is sufficient numbers of quaint farmers have signed up to take it above their break even point.They do have a corporate backer in the wings. They can’t plant fruit trees up here fast enough, they apparently now have new varieties that take picking into the colder months so extending the season.John Ashworth makes a nice drop of wine at Takapau.The big processors have spent millions of dollars in some anticipation.
            I will still vote for those that will vote for the dam.

          • biscuit barrel

            Corporate backer in the wings ? Everyone who has done due diligence has walked away so far.
            As well they had to bend the rules about a councillor voting on something they have a pecuniary interest.
            Then there is cheap government money from Crown irrigation Investments- thats why its opposed by those who see it as another big socialist mistake. The project would likely be enviable without this taxpayers pot of gold ( still has to be repaid though)
            “Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says the value of irrigation has been proven in recent severe droughts. He aims to have a million hectares of land under Government-backed irrigation schemes by 2025.”
            if thats not enough the government owned ACC is supposed to be the ‘big investor’. More big socialism from the days of Muldoon
            A lot of locals dont support the rosy assumptions
            “And although the economic returns promised to the region have been predicated on the assumption that 37% of the irrigated land will support dairy cows, Pearce insists the rules are “so stringent” they will “severely constrain” dairy farming”.
            The pollution numbers dont add up as they are above what they are now, let alone with ‘more diarying’, so they have some daydreaming to get around the cold hard facts that the pollution limit is just ‘aspirational’. Its clear have clean drinking water has been aspirational as well.
            The pollution limit will certainly end up in court.

          • notoutraged

            Its not quaint farmers market produce. McCains and Watties have done plenty of due diligence on pushing further south with reliable water. Not true that Banks wouldn’t touch a dairy conversion either. Sorry but I have to call you out on your somewhat ignorant claims here

          • biscuit barrel

            ““Don’t you want jobs in Central Hawke’s Bay?” he (CHB Mayor) bellows at protesters gathered outside the Napier headquarters of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the promoter of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme. Jabbing a forefinger at those he calls “antis”, he yells: “We’ve got the chance of jobs!”
            yeah nah , its not about stopping the decline

          • notoutraged

            Of the 198 farmers who have signed up to water, there is only 1 dairy conversion proposed

          • biscuit barrel

            So they have found a new form of farm economics that can use very expensive irrigation water to increase production of beef and sheep and make money.
            The former CEO of Pipfruit NZ ( who is a regional councillor) says its fantasy that they will have large scale orchards in the harsher climate with Ruataniwha area.
            Interesting you have the numbers of farmers who have signed up and are not doing dairy conversion as I understand they will just sell the land for a higher price and let someone else do the conversion. Which is what any rational person would do. Take the money and run.

          • notoutraged

            See below comments no mention of sheep and beef, last time I looked McCains and Watties didn’t specialise in pipfruit.

  • Dumrse

    So, if the river is but a dribble in summer, what’s the flow going to be like with a dam blocking the river until such time as you fill the dam. Winter rains I hear you say will fill it in a heart beat. The river flow data you have, has been collected for an awfully long time so why don’t you share the data so as to shut down the naysayers ? For my money the dribble will be less than a piddle and the river will suffer immensely with or without all of the toxic chemicals adding to the problem. Crops will change and you will want irrigation all year round given the slack rainfalls in HB and, this is going to good for everybody? Share the data.

    • F T Bear

      I don’t have the data you speak of, but I do have view based on what I see.
      The river is often very low in the summer,it is degraded, doing nothing is not an option, The Makaroro River is to be damed not the Tuki Tuki, The Tuki Tuki will only benefit in the summer by having storage. Winter rains will fill it.The average Rain fall for Ashley Clinton is about 1200 mm annually. Why do I need to provide data when you can make stuff up about a piddle, toxic chemicals adding to the problem, with no data. If you were to come and look at the flow at the river mouth from time to time during the heavy rain events you might get an understanding of the volume of water.
      I doubt crops will grow all year round but if they did there would be no need to irrigate due to the winter rain and what a great thing that would be for all the workers involved. Crops may change, great we all don’t want to grow beetroot anyway.