Te Mata Estate Winery director John Buck has called on the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to delay building the Ruataniwha Dam because of a photo published on an internet blogsite showing human effluent.
In a letter to councillors, he said the picture carried "a colour photograph of human excrement being discharged from the Waipawa effluent ponds into the Waipawa River".
"The accompanying text quotes a Steve Thrush, who claims that despite making adjustments, the plant is still meeting the conditions of its resource consent," he said.
"As the owner of a premium Hawke's Bay consumable brand, exported to over 40 countries, I find such practices, which undermine our years of investment and hard, hard work in a place we love to boast about, as compelling evidence for the self-interest of vested community groups, and in this case also two of our councils.
"Why are we even contemplating building a dam for the benefit of a few when we are not prepared to fix a sewerage system which undermines any quality message inherent in the regional brand which underlies the prosperity of our total community?
"Is this our equivalent of Fonterra's problems in China?
"It's human effluent, so please tell your fellow councillors to delay the dam until they've fixed the sewerage and put the ratepayers' money into that.
"Marlborough claims it can farm wasabi because its water is so pure.
"What can we claim when the pictorial evidence and banal, a***-saving responses prove the contrary? Our competitors for the consumer dollars just love this."
The blog a picture purported to be of the outflow from the Waipawa treatment plant into the Waipawa River. It is noticeably discoloured.
The Waipawa River flows into the Tukituki River. The CHB council has built a new filtration, UV treatment and alum dosing plant, but it is not yet in operation.
Regional council resource management group manager Iain Maxwell said discharges now were within the conditions of the current consent. In September, water quality would need to be higher. "We acknowledge the community concern about the discharges and would strongly agree that the improvements required in September this year are vital," he said.
"We remain of the view that the upgrades to both the Waipawa and Waipukurau plants will achieve the standards required and that the Central Hawke's Bay District Council will meet the conditions of consent required by September this year."