Council says no to $5m dam input

By Nicki Harper

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Cr Maitland Manning voted in favour. Photo / File
Cr Maitland Manning voted in favour. Photo / File

Central Hawke's Bay district councillors yesterday voted not to proceed with a proposal to invest $5 million in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, in what some submitters against the idea called a "victory for common sense".

The council met to consider and discuss the 92 submissions that had been received, of which 75 were opposed to the proposal to take $1 million from rural ward reserve funds and borrow $4 million to invest in the project.

Before the meeting, Mayor Peter Butler and councillors Sally Butler and Andrew Watts had already withdrawn from the voting process.

Mr Butler and his sister-in-law, councillor Sally Butler, earlier declared a conflict of interest as both had interests in property within the scheme's proposed irrigation zones.

In addition Mrs Butler had not attended the public submissions hearing on Wednesday last week.

Mr Watts said he had 25 hectares of land and had signed an Expression of Interest to take water should the dam go ahead, and as such he felt there was some conflict.

Before they voted on the $5 million investment, councillor Terry Kingston put forward an amended motion that the council instead invest $500,000.

"Our council had talked about $500,000 in our initial discussions - it's only a drop in the ocean but I believe this council has a limited ability to fund $5 million."

He said it was very clear to him that the community was against the council borrowing money "but more so that the community wanted the dam to proceed - we must be seen to support this project".

A vote on investing $500,000 was defeated, and councillors returned to discussing the $5 million proposal.

Councillor Mark Williams said there were two issues, one was the dam and one was investing. "I think I can say this council is unreservedly in favour of the dam going ahead but somewhat divided about the investment. "We should not be borrowing money to invest in the dam - if it was such a good investment I would have considered it, but I have been convinced by submitters it's not a good investment."

He added that although there was a lot of support shown for the dam at the rally held in Waipukurau last month, that did not translate into submissions favouring investing in it.

Councillor Maitland Manning said he was concerned that so many people were so strongly against the proposal.

"I believe our future as a region depends on us being seen to be actively supporting this by our actions and with financial support," he said.

"We are dealing with the future of our young people, schools, industry and businesses and we should be contributing."

When it came to the vote Mr Manning was the only councillor to vote in favour of the investment.

After the meeting, submitter Harold Petherick who had been against the proposal, said it was a sensible decision.

"There's still a long way to go before we know if the dam will go ahead - in the meantime that money should not be invested by the CHB District Council - it would be better spent elsewhere."

Submitter Grenville Christie said it was "a victory for common sense, and a vote for fiscal responsibility".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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