More problems for the dodgy socialist dam

Fenton "Jong-un" Wilson

Fenton “Jong-un” Wilson

Chairman Fenton “Jong-Un” Wilson has been effective at suppressing dissent about his dodgy socialist dam for years. His problem came when the Board of Inquiry was formed and the extremely dodgy Hawke’s Bay Regional Council was told “You are not allowed to turn the Tukituki River Toxic”.

The council tried to fudge this by convincing the Board of Inquiry that it should be allowed to make a very late submission that other parties could not submit on, and allow 615 farms not to have to manage nitrogen leeching. This “factual fiction” has been overturned by the High Court, who have awarded costs to the appellants.

The big problem for the Dodgy Socialist Dam is the timeline.

They set a timeline of the end of March 2015 for farmers to sign up for the water from the scheme.

A High Court decision sending Hawke’s Bay’s Ruataniwha Water Storage Dam back to a Board of Inquiry is expected to create another delay, and another hit to the soaring cost of the project.  

While the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company was last night not commenting on the prospects for what is billed as New Zealand’s largest irrigation scheme and its budget of over $250 million, sources said with Christmas and the need to reconvene the board intervening, the company would be hard-pressed to meet its end-of-March deadline for the signing of the water-use contracts needed for the project to go ahead.

Two months ago, chairman Andy Pearce said deals with farmers to use about 35 million cubic metres of water a year were pending, but some were awaiting the appeal decision before making any commitment.

So the Board of Inquiry has to reconvene, and they have to come up with another decision, which could be appealed.

This will blow out the end of March deadline, and that is before a series of other legal and financial problems are created for the socialists on the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council who have consistently failed to listen to any dissent about their dodgy socialist dam.

I wonder if the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council councillors who have supported the dam despite advice not to are going to be liable for wasting ratepayers money.

Could they be subject to litigation for their failure to act in the best interests of all ratepayers and for negligence in failing to listen to expert advice?

Things might get real interesting in the Hawke’s Bay sooner rather than later.


– HB Today


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  • Nebman

    What is it with these dodgy Politicians and their bizarre desire to leave legacy projects? It surely can’t be just ego?

  • jack185



    Just wondering what will it take to provide HB with the sustainable, long term lift the economy needs…what is the alternative for the dam?

  • Peter

    Les Mills and his like got the sky tower project going
    John Banks and his like finally got the Auckland infrastucture redevelopment going again
    Muldoons think big projects like Marsden Point etc.
    Our extensive Hydroelectric power generation system
    Tauranga Cities traffic infrastructure and power generation legacies

    Come to think of it I’m quite glad to have those ‘legacy projects’, or most of them anyway.

    This ‘socialist dam’ seems like a really good idea to me – that is provided Hawkes Bay wants to be lifted out of being the countries economic backwater.

    I think the nay sayers need to do the simple calculation of investment against return for this project, irrespective of who people who stand to benefit are. Because at the end of the day the water means economic prosperity for HB and the country.

    • rua kenana

      So, turning the region’s rivers (even more) toxic, paid for by ever-increasing rates, is the way to increased wealth.
      Interesting viewpoint. Based on “facts”, cost-benefit “analysis” or whatever from the scheme’s promoter perhaps? Also suggests interesting possibilities for the atmosphere, the sea, or other “free” medium for toxic disposal. And that’s all just tough luck for the unfortunate recipients.
      If there’s some objective analysis, independent of the scheme’s promoter, for this scheme perhaps that could be provided to give some support to the claims made.

      • Peter

        Well the moot point here is the assumption that the scheme will turn the river more toxic. The findings of the ecologists and other people who have worked on the project is that it wont make the river more toxic. My opinion is that the river quality can actually improve, if the scheme is properly managed. What is key to river toxicity is the prevention of nutrient flows into the river, and probably to a much lessor extent the taking of the water. There are many mechanisms available to achieve this. As per my previous comments I myself have worked on wastewater disposal projects where the river water quality has actually improved rather than been degraded.

        • rua kenana

          Ok. I grew up on a farm right on the Tukituki and over about 20 years (1950 to about 1970) we watched in some despair coz we couldn’t do anything while the river steadily degraded. The irresponsibilty of the Waipawa and Waipuk councils in dumping their sewage into that once clean and beautiful river took some beating. Some of the old-timers had a view (I was too young to really know what it was based on) that it was once one of the purest rivers in the world. Something to do with filtration of a bed of limestone or similar it flowed over or through.
          You refer to “… if the scheme is properly managed.” In later life I was involved inter alia in analysing the effectiveness of regulatory procedures and similar. Marginal schemes are rarely properly managed and I see little likelihood of this one being any different. Likewise with your “there are many mechanisms available to achieve this”. Implementing effective mechanisms, if indeed effective ones even exist in this case, cost money which can turn a marginal scheme into a dead loss one. With the likely result that more dumping waste/toxicity into the river will be seen as the only profitable possibility to take.

          And this is even without the likely large cost overruns of constructing etc. of the dam itself, outcomes that I’ve also had involvement in analysing.

          • Peter

            Well I agree with you. We sometimes just don’t put enough money into things to be successful. The mechanisms I’m talking about are not original or new, like:
            Stop discharging the waste water from the towns and cities into the river. Irrigate it to land.
            Riparian planting and fencing off the waterways from stock
            Enforce the conditions required of permitted or discretionary activities.
            Encourage sustainable farming practices such as:
            Cultivation using minimum soil disturbance methods to stop sediment runoff and erosion
            Encourage water recycling. e.g. The average dairy farm uses 55liter per cow per day. This can be reduced to 15 liters per cow er day.
            Plant crops appropriate to the environment.
            Be smarter about our agricultural methods to reduce nutrient loss to waterways.
            Retire vulnerable land.
            Stop urban sprawl over arable land
            Restrict the growth of lifestyle blocks which produce little

          • Peter

            I guess I have been involved in three or four successful land treatment schemes for waste water, and a few not so successful. The successful ones have always been built on performance not price. Where it has been based on minimum price things have not always worked out so well. The recurring theme has been the contract award is almost always based on minimum price for minimum compliance. The two recent township land treatment systems we looked and declined or lost the tender (and no sour grapes here) I could not even see that they would work. The first that has been built doesn’t work after three years, and that has been a waste of $10m, That’s a lot of money for nothing…I would love the chance to get in there and just fix the bloody thing but fat chance. The other – we will find out this summer….I have noted however that the guys running the finished systems are pretty passionate about making them work if they can. Everybody is probably committed to cleaning up the waste problem but at some point we just don’t commit enough funds. Poo isn’t as popular as art works or fancy buildings or trips to see what Italy is doing I guess.

          • rua kenana

            I also agree with most of what you say (except for your lifestyle comment which needs some elaboration).
            The general actions you suggest would, if implemented, have benefit over much of the country but are all too often not implemented because of cost and apathy. Central Hawkes Bay has been no different in the past and no evidence they will be in the future.
            Who would pay? Farmers? Ratepayers? Taxpayers? Probably nobody, hence the Tukituki will very likely become more toxic.
            Regarding lifestyle blocks, these provide amenity to their owners which has more economic value than the agricultural/pastoral activities they replace, otherwise it wouldn’t pay to create them. They also tend to grow more trees, more protection for native wildlife, more space and fresh air for children to experience. They tend not to flog the land like many famers, and tend not to pollute the waterways. They help provide green belts around cities which do provide amenity to locals despite the National/Labour plans to cover them over with houses.

    • Platinum Fox

      The late Les Mills’ proposed legacy monument was an underground car park and bus station at Britomart which, had it been built, would have required high rise building to have been built in that area to help fund it. Personally I’d rather have the redeveloped old buildings with bars, restaurants and open spaces that we know as Britomart today. I don’t think that he is due any credit for the Sky Tower which was and is a commercial venture.
      Christine Fletcher’s legacy monument was the Aotea Centre, a facility which I suspect remains to this day an annual drain on Auckland ratepayers’ pockets. Had the Aotea Centre been capable of fulfilling its touted purposes, Auckland City wouldn’t have needed to buy the Civic Theatre and build backstage facilities to enable it to host stage shows.
      I have absolutely no issue with councils building essential infrastructure. Taking commercial and financial risk on projects which benefit only a small minority is well outside their remit.

      • Peter

        fair point

    • Dumrse

      I’ve had a foot in both camps until a recent task had me up Middle Road and along side the river in three or four places plus crossings. It looks a sad river in low flows and I doubt the Waipawa has sufficient flow to keep the lower reaches in good condition. So, the Tukituki from the dam to the confluence will be what ? A toxic drain ?

      I’m all for irrigation and regularly see the benefits in the Sth Island however I would opine that the river flows are significantly better than the Tukituki. I grew up in HB and learnt to fish in the three local rivers and currently live 1K from one of them and there is no doubt in my mind the river flows are well down on what they were 30yrs ago. I would love a big lake in HB however I’m not convinced this example is without serious risk.

      What good are your economics if what’s left won’t support life ?

      P.S. there’s not a green bone in my body, nor a left one for that matter.

      • Peter

        Yes but isnt the point of this scheme to take water at high flows? And therefore reduce the taking of water at low flows?

        • Dumrse

          Low flows = no water available. IMHO low flows will exceed normal >> high flows. What then of the economic benefits. As I’ve said above, its high risk.

      • I am all for irrigation too, but not at the expense of a river. If the council proposal actually improved water quality, not destroyed it then i would support it and so would most of the naysayers.

        They want to change the rules to turn the Tukituki toxic…that is wrong

  • Peter

    Here is an example of why dairy farmers should irrigate. A farmer I know bought a hill country farm for a moderate sum. 450 cows, annual milk solids production for the last 20 years of 125,000kg.
    During the summer the grass production fell from 80kg/day/ha to 10kg/ha/day. To counter this the previous farmer regularly imported feed to keep milking or dried off his cows, losing production. Feed costs were up to 33c/kg.
    Importing feed onto a dry farm means that more nutrients are set down on the farm as urine and dung. What happens to the nutrient from the dung? It goes into groundwater or surface water from runoff during rain events. This is because there is no grass growing to take up that imported nutrient.
    We then irrigated the farm. The result was that: the farm was entirely grass fed, no imported feed, Milk solids production rose in the first year to 205,000kg, and then in the second year to 247,000kg. The farm actually grew more grass than could be grazed. Nutrient outputs from the farm fell dramatically because the grass growing under irrigation utilized it. Soil and pasture health was retained season to season. Feed costs under irrigation were around 22c/kg – reducing operating costs.
    Irrigation turned a ‘dirty’, unproductive dairy farm into a productive business unit that has a minimal nutrient loss to the environment.
    The cost for an irrigation system like this is around $1m. A good deal of this money is consumed in abstracting the water and delivering it to the farm.
    A socialist dam will collectively solve the problem of individual water takes. The water is delivered to the farm gate and its use paid for by the user. Just like our water rates in town. That our city councils administer.
    The supreme irony here is that we dont question where we get our water for drinking, our laundry, or taking a bath, or for other commercial uses. Whereas if the farmer wants water for his business we have an issue.
    Rather like not questioning where our steak comes from.

    • Peter

      If people really want to reduce nutrient inputs to the Tuki Tuki, they have two options:
      A. Take away the farms where the nutrient runoff occurs. These would be the cropping,dairy, and dry stock farms where the biomass is allowed to die back during the dry season.
      B. Irrigate to sustain plant and soil health to better retain nutrients in the soil and biomass.

    • cows4me

      Enough Peter, we can’t have to much sense talked here, you need to get with the program. Damn the dam.

      • Platinum Fox

        We can never have too much sense talked here C4M. As I understand it, the issue in this case is a regional local authority wishes to impose financial and commercial risk on its ratepayers for a project which cannot be described as essential infrastructure as it will ‘benefit’ only a select group. I’ve not been following the argument very closely, but isn’t there a suggestion that, if fully priced, the cost of the water would be such that its use for irrigation would be uneconomic?

        • cows4me

          It could will be uneconomic in the short term Platinum Fox but over many years I’m sure it would pay for itself . As for placing costs on the ratepayers which is not seen as an essential benefit, this is very hard to quantify, will the hundreds of millions spent by farmers not be of benefit to the wider community?

          • Platinum Fox

            The capitalist answer is that if it makes so much sense, why won’t those who will directly benefit take the financial and commercial risk themselves?
            The dam project proposal is actually no different to the proponents of the Skypath (the cycleway and footpath proposed to be attached to the Harbour Bridge) wanting Auckland Council to underwrite their funding because the proposed lender is not prepared to take risk against the project.
            Lending to a council or to a project where the debt is supported by a council guarantee involves much less risk for the financier; councils have an unrestricted ability to levy rates so if push comes to shove the ratepayers in general carry the can.

          • cows4me

            I guess the logical answer is that the return on investment is to long term. If they all funded the project as you suggested than they would be very old before they would see any return. That still doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t go ahead, a dam can last for a damn long time.

          • Platinum Fox

            But the long term value should be included in the value of their farm investment or property or at least part of the farm ownership package. It’s not uncommon to see small rural properties advertised as including shares in an irrigation scheme and owning part of your irrigation input provider is really not a particularly different concept for a farmer than owning shares in Fonterra or a meat co-op.

          • Peter

            There are a few issues here:
            1. The farmer may not have access to the water as it is not close enough to their boundary.
            2. The capital cost of a retained water system may outweigh the individuals ability to borrow and maintain the investment over a term acceptable to the lenders.
            3. A council bases their investment on a much longer time scale, a lot longer than a individual farmers term on a farm. i.e. 100 years instead of 10 years. They are much better placed to invest in and administer a reticulated scheme.
            4. Councils have the charter to manage the water as a discretionary or permitted activity. They are in a much better position to retain, reticulate and retail the water. After all they do this with other utilities.

    • All well and good Peter, but the business case as presented by the council requires the Tukituki to be sacrificed, turned toxic…so 180 farmers can enjoy what you have described…destroying a river, already polluted by a council pouring crap into it from the towns. If the numbers make so much sense then why has no one signed up for for it? Because it is a dog.

      • Peter

        Well Maybe. But I don’t see 180 farmers. I see the security of all of the people that go into those farms to make a living, and the product they produce that goes to NZ economic fortunes. Also please don’t forget the vinyeards, the croppers, and the orchardists who are probably actually the main beneficiaries of this scheme. There is not much dairy in HB really. As far as I can see, having lived there for 5 years is that the river is already toxic. My kids swam in that river in summer and came back with skin infections. The lower rivers are so full of weed the council has to cut it and dump it. That fact in itself is an indication N levels are higher than 0.5mg/l. I made some comments earlier about N concentrations if you are interested..
        I also made some comments earlier about nutrient uptake on irrigated systems as opposed to nutrient losses from systems that suffer regular drought conditions. As far as I can see the best way to stop nutrient loss from an agricultural system is to have healthy soil, and healthy plant life, that can take the nutrients and use it to grow biomass.
        As an aside I am a keen advocate of using the land to treat our waste water and convert it to something useful. I was lucky enough to be involved in the Taupo project and see first hand the outstanding improvement in the water quality of that river. When I was young I kayaked that river and we used to get the ‘fulljames bot’ – basically sick from ingesting the water. After the scheme, the water quality in the Waikato improved enormously and I would happily kayak the river – if they hadn’t built a huge power station on my old rapids. The Taupo council grow crops using the waste and generate more than $1.2M per annum income to the council. They are sold out every year as the nutritional value of the halage they sell is very high.There is almost no nutrient loss from the disposal fields as it all becomes grass. The soil quality has improved from basically white pumice to a deep rich healthy soil that itself can be harvested to recondition other land with poor soils. It took a few guys in that council with the drive and the cojones to make that project happen, and not falter. In contrast I was really disappointed on this blog to hear Waipawa etc took the wetland route. They had land allocated for irrigation of the waste water to land, and benchmark sites to show that this treatment system works. Similarly Masterton which is basically still dumping the nutrient water into the river. If you want a cause take up the cudgels for the land treatment of the waste water from our towns and cities. And I am not talking about spraying it into the forests. What a waste of time that is – producing timber of only nominal or nil commercial value. I am talking about using what is a valuable resource to grow crops for commercial gain. Or retailing that water to someone to do it.
        The river flows have always been up and down. In winter the river is flooded, and in summer it is dry. The irrigators drawing water from the river in summer accelerate the process and I agree that that practice is bad. Made worse by the fact they used to all pump harder before the river reaches cutoff, so the river levels dip even lower than they should. The only way that I can see to fix the river problem due to irrigation was a retained water system. Glazebrookes did it decades ago and that system works a treat, servicing other farms as well as the vineyards on the property. You should take a look at that system. To be honest I didn’t think the Ruatanipha project would get this far. I am just amazed someone has had the nuts to take the challenge and push it forwards. If it goes ahead then I would bet the flow on economic benefits to the region will be significant.
        If the water is taken when the river is in flood, then the amount required to charge the dam would not be significant compared to the flows in flood. If the same water is taken in summer I would hazard it would be devastating..


      • Peter

        And while we are on the subject of toxic water….Just think of the Napier City Waste Water Scheme. Turds in the surf – no problem – just grind it up smaller with a milliscreening plant and continue to pump it into the sea. Just like most other seaside cities, including Wellington. Worried about swimming in the river? Hell I am worried about swimming in the sea! That to me is truly tragic, completely fixable, a waste, and damaging to our environment. There are so many better alternatives.

    • Peter

      I might add that the farmer (and his neighbors who built a similar system with the same outcomes, and their neighbors also) main reasons for this scheme was to go to a fully grass fed system. After all it is what cows eat. The farmer wasn’t keen on the idea of high input farm where the cows are fed on imported feed. He didnt increase cow numbers or go for maximum profit. He just wanted to lift milk production so he could run the farm sustainably, and have happy cows. On the high input farms they:
      – use Palm Kernel which is not only bad for the environment but is hazardous as it is imported from countries with diseases and pests harmful to our economy. Also PK isn’t really that good for cows and produces a lot more saturated fats in the milk…
      – have to really watch the feed balance or the whole herd can lose production, become ill, and even die.
      – have to deal with highly variable feed costs which can damage their business.
      – are basically pumping the nutrients from the animal waste out onto the farmland that is not in a condition to receive it.

  • Peter

    I guess the other big option for HB economic growth might be drilling for oil or gas?

    • All_on_Red

      Nah, unfortunately. The anti fracking brigade are already scaremongering about the water table being affected.

      • Bobb

        There has never been a single verifiable instance of groundwater contamination caused by fracking anywhere in the world, no matter what the environmentalist neanderthals might claim.

  • Peter

    I think the answer here regarding investment is that farmers and other commercial investors are looking for a return on that investment less 8 years. Whereas Councils (and also some Iwi Trusts) are looking at ROI of 25 years or more. The service life of some Council investments is in the order of 100 years so I would imagine an ROI in the order of 50 years might not be out of the question. I would hope the dam might fall within the latter category.

  • Peter

    The value of water is also a moot point. I looked into this a few years ago for a water abstraction and distribution project. The market value of water is quite high – could be up to $12/m3. However many councils cost the town supply water in the order of $0.4 to $1.0/m3, depending on the costs to abstract and treat the water to potable standards… Not sure what the Ruatanipha rates are.

  • Peter

    Had a quick look at the report:
    irrigation users: 30% dairy, 30% arable, 30% other. So dairy is 30% – not big not small.
    Irrigation Area: 17,000 ha
    Cost of water $0.3/m3. That is cheap water by my book.
    Four flushing events per annum. Flows maintained above those recommended by ecologists etc.
    At a net income of say $25/ha/day from irrigation that equates to a net profit of around $75m pa. So the direct income benefit to the region is probably around $380m. These numbers are rough so I may be wrong here. However if they are in the vicinity it would be s a pretty big boost to the economy if my numbers are right.

    I cant see how this is a problem?

    • Peter

      Apologies read a bit further in the report. The report estimates the ongoing benefit of the dam at:
      – Farm output to rise $160m pa
      – total income benefit to the region: $230m
      – 2,250 jobs

      Total cost of dam: $600m, which represents 4,500 job years of income for the region.

      So this dam is going to cost only $600 and return an income benefit tothe region of $230m per year, not withstanding the economic benefits of building the thing……

      Sorry but how is this a bad thing?

  • MaidenMarewa

    I can’t see HBRC backing down on this. There is too much at stake now. I received a letter stating they had sold the income for the residential leasehold land for the next 50 years to ACC. Obviously ACC would not purchase that for a break even or a losing price so the Council will have taken some kind of hit on it. If the damn doesn’t go ahead, what will happen to that money they have sitting waiting? They may be lucky to invest it for a better return but there is no guarantee. It would be interesting to see how they valued the land when it is not increasing and even in some cases, decreasing in value here and I imagine they planned on the hundreds of leaseholders being unable to freehold in that time. Another point is when the leaseholders were complaining to HBRC that the leases were becoming unaffordable for many, the people of CHB said it was our tough luck for buying the properties. They are quick enough to put their hands out for our money now.