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Waimea community dam

December 18th, 2014
by Cr Martine Bouillir, Ward Councillor for Golden Bay

After reading 800 submissions and attending 6 days of hearings, it is clear to me that the majority of Tasman submitters do not want the Waimea Dam. The whole process has been rushed, put forward at a bad time of year and now another proposal is suddenly before us.

There is doubt and dissent about the need for a large augmentation scheme and it is questionable whether it is council's role to provide this. Council's only mandate, as I understand it, is to provide for the urban (commercial/industrial) users and staff have said that this supply is secure for the next 20 years or more, including growth. Were it not for the use of the large abstractive irrigators on the plains, the $25M for the LTP would not be necessary. There has been an overwhelming cry from the ratepayers for 'user pays'. It is not council's (read: ratepayers') job to subsidise uneconomical businesses.

The dam is not an environmental solution - in the guise of fixing one problem, it will create many more. The dam will not incentivise water conservation and I have been disappointed that during this whole process and all proposals, no consideration has been given to this most important aspect. I can't possibly justify to someone in Murchison or Golden Bay who is using tank water and making efforts to save water around their own property, why they should pay to fix overuse and overallocation of water in Waimea.

A dam will encourage more monocultures, intensive irrigation and increased nitrate use. Is this the future we want for the Waimea Plains? Or do we want to encourage more biodiversity, resilience, adaptation and innovation? Crops that are no longer viable may have to change - we need to live within our means or find new ways. Some businesses may go down - that's life, that's change. New, more appropriate ones will come in to take their place - smaller quality niche crops - valued for being grown in clean, green sustainable ways. This would make Tasman stand apart - we have the potential to be the best!

As councillors, we have never had the options to the dam put before us. If augmentation is to happen we must have thoroughly explored, alternative options to compare. For me, a dam would be an absolute last resort after other measures have been considered or put in place. Overall, there is too much uncertainty about too much - none of us can really know what the future brings - climate change and inconsistent weather patterns, earth/faultline shifts, financial instability and global trends could radically change anything at any time. Putting all our eggs in one basket with one huge engineered project is very risky. We need smaller localised solutions which can be easily managed in emergencies.

Even should we obtain money from the government for this project, it is likely to be a loan rather than a grant - this will still leave the so-called 'environmental' costs to the little ratepayers - from where we have had the strongest reactions to this whole proposal.

And finally, while I have held strong opinions about this project from the beginning (I am not a fan of dams, debt or intensive irrigation), I have kept an open mind. I might be a minority voice around this table but it is clear I reflect a majority community opinion and I am even more convinced having heard the intelligent opinions from the public over this time.

Unless there are radical amendments to the resolutions I will be voting against them.

Comment by Philip Grimmett:
[Posted 22 December 2014]

Powerful arguments Martine! Good luck with the council. The majority of councillors within council have clearly misread the feelings of the wider district and promoted a particular agenda. Very concerning. The democratic process is being tested and I do not expect the vested interests promoting this scheme to concede. The shenanigans are not over. Watch this space.

Comment by Malcolm Garrett:
[Posted 22 December 2014]

From all reports, the scheme is very near to being a dead duck! I agree with the sentiments from our Golden Bay Councillor. All those with tank water supplies must be wondering why they bothered to conserve water. The only sensible suggestion came from an ex-candidate for Tasman Mayor, when he offered the theory of a gravity feed from Lake Rotoiti directly to Richmond's expanding needs. Auckland gets their water from the Waikato - so why not Richmond from Rotoiti?

Comment by Peter Foster, Collingwood:
[Posted 2 January 2015]

Augmentation means increase. A dam cannot increase the water available from rainfall. Surely all a dam can do is smooth out the drought and storm "bumps". Augmentation can mean diverting more water onto the Waimea Plain. Would not this have be at the cost of less water for others in the whole system?

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