Dodgy socialist dam not looking good

The Dodgy socialist dam isn’t looking good:

The regional council may pull up stumps on a project that has dominated its agenda for the past seven years – the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

At this week’s corporate and strategic committee meeting it became apparent that it will now be even harder to get this controversial project off the ground with a bigger water buy in agreed to [from the 40 Million cubic metres to 50Mm3], an extra environmental condition precedent added [taking it up to five] and 186 Foundation Water User contracts expiring in June.   

Despite this, Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company chief executive Blair O’Keefe said he believes his team can present a scheme that offers HBRIC with the controls that it needs to meet its requirements.

“To do so in a way that presents leadership to the region and in fact HBRIC is committed to that process which is why we are very satisfied to insert an environmental management plan condition precedent as part of the programm,” he said.

“A key ask of council as it considers its decision is that you recognise the merits of the scheme whilst working on building any additional confidence that you need around what the environ management package will deliver we are asking that you accept our recommendations in our letter.

“What we would like to advocate for relative to your deliberations today and next week is that the council considers a balanced decision which delivers the best possible outcomes for environment and economy and jobs.”

If only the dam plan had sought to protect the environment rather than harm it.

Probably the most heavily debated move was made by councillor Tom Belford when he requested that staff prepare a new condition precedent that establishes clear environmental parameters to be met prior to RWSS proceeding.

This was met with support and resistance in equal measure – with staunch proponent of the scheme councillor Fenton Wilson saying the process may as well end now if it was passed.

“I would be against this on the basis that it is too vague.

“If we have got to wait for an environmental court process to go on for five years to give us a view on the 0.8 DIN [dissolved inorganic nitrogen level] as an example frankly we might as well close the gate now.

“So I think what is written here gets us there.”

They should close the gate. Fenton Wilson presided over a flawed plan and a failure of a project yet pushed it hard at every level. The man has no shame. The dam in its original format would have made the Tukituki river toxic.

Another issue that could make it difficult for the RWSS to proceed is the fact that the 186 FWU agreements needed for the scheme to proceed expire on June 30, 2017.

Palmer said what this means is that after this date the contractual obligation between the water users and the scheme become null and void.

“In so much as that these are take or pay contracts which farmers have signed up to paying for the water over 35 years and the scheme is contractually obliged to provide the water for the contracted volumes at certain pressures at farm gate,” he said.

“So both parties are no longer obligated to each other [post June 30].”

Palmer said this sign up by FWUs is necessary for the scheme as it needs a certain volume of secured contracts before it can proceed.

This has been a long-standing condition precedent for the council, so what will now need to happen, he said, is that those contracts will have to be either rolled over or renegotiated.

However, he says water users do not have to resign with HBRIC – they can walk away from the project.

“It is entirely over to them and time will tell whether or not any of them are getting cold feet at this point,” said Palmer.

He said that if users do choose to walk away and after the rollover or resigning of contracts the 40Mm3 is not reached “then clearly the CP is unmet at that point”.

However, Palmer said that in practice it probably did not matter either way.

“Because the scheme isn’t going to proceed until those contracts have been rolled over and there is sufficient [water] volume of them to meet the new number which in today’s meeting was agreed at 50m3m,” he said.

Another failed target, and one that was only notionally met with dodgy contracts and council shenanigans. The dam was to support agriculture and most of the water was bought by other councils.

Moreover, another court case is now on the cards that directly affects the scheme – this time it is lobby groups Environmental Defence Society and Fish & Game are involved and it is before the Environment Court.

Palmer explained these groups have indicated an intention to seek a declaration from the Environment Court around the interpretations that the regional council will need to take in relation to the nitrogen management issues for the scheme.

“Specifically, around the 0.8 mgs per litre DIN levels and the fact that the scheme has to by its resource consents operate in a manner consistent with achieving those limits,” he said.

“So they [the lobby groups] want to understand what does that mean in practice and so does the council so they intend going to the court to seek that declaration and have invited the council to join with them.”

The HBRC has been told time and time again that they can’t ignore the Nitrogen levels. They still fail to understand that this has been the wedge with which opponents have been able to split apart the dam plan.

The plan was flawed years ago.  Pull the plug.


-News Collective


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