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Council to explore external funding options for dam

December 12th, 2014
[From TDC press releases]

The issue of affordability is central to the Council's decision yesterday to reject the funding models put forward in the recent consultation regarding the proposed Waimea Community Dam.

The rejection of the models (which relied on ratepayer contributions) does not negate the need to solve the issues created by the acute water shortage on the Waimea Plains, Mayor Richard Kempthorne said.

"But it highlights the need for support for any proposal by external funders, in this case the Government and Nelson City Council. As the first opportunity the Council has had to discuss the impact of the proposal on ratepayers in detail, the result is not surprising.

"The proposal in the form consulted on is clearly not affordable nor supported if funded by ratepayers alone, as it proved earlier to be even less affordable if funded by water users alone.

"In removing both options from further consideration, the Council is free to explore other options not available prior to the funding and governance consultation.

"The affordability issues needed to be tested and the Council was the appropriate body to do that. The outcome of the recent consultation process has necessitated the Council to explore other options including Government and NCC funding, the timing of the project and the scope of the dam itself.

"There were many submissions both for and against a dam as the best option to meet the water issues faced on the Waimea Plains. It would also be safe to say that the majority of the opposition to the dam and calls for further options to be explored was largely driven by the financial impact on individuals.

"We remain confident that the dam is the best augmentation option to meet the demands placed on the Waimea River and the aquifers it supports.

"With the knowledge gained from the necessary consultation and the ongoing positive conversations with the Government about funding, the Council is prepared to continue exploring the concept. As a contributor to the District's current and future environmental, economic and growth needs, the Dam is going to be a key element in Tasman's future."

The community's view on a revised dam proposal will once again be sought as part of the Long Term Plan process next year.

Mayor Kempthorne also defended criticism that the recent community consultation process on funding and governance was rushed and premature and lacked information.

"The work on the options and modelling and preparing the information we put out required a massive effort by many staff and contractors as well as elected members. But that pales into insignificance compared to the time and effort that submitters collectively put in.

"Undertaking a community consultation process on this scale on an issue so contentious so close to the end of the year is not something I'd normally advise," he said.

"However, we had little choice. We said in 2012 we needed to find out whether the project was fundable by the community alone using rates and we have found out - it is not.

"We needed to get those views now because the Council is about to finalise its draft budget for consultation for the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan to fully inform the consultation round early next year.

"It would have been impossible to have run this process next year, heard and done justice to the submissions and amend the finances in time to get the Long Term Plan adopted by 30 June.

"Having tried in the past to get the scheme of the ground funded by the direct beneficiaries on and near the Plains and now by the ratepayers of the district it is clear that external help is needed.

"The process we have just concluded has ... given the Council and others a very clear steer. The consultation done as part of the last Long Term Plan in 2012 and other surveys of support did not give us that. While there are things that we could have done differently the outcome we have is a good one".


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