Public pressure may have forced the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to release the 161 submissions people made to its Tukituki Choices plan, overturning an earlier decision to keep the documents under wraps until next week.
A summary of the public submissions will be available tomorrow and the full versions will be released the following Monday, October 29, just two days ahead of the regional council's decision on whether to move ahead with the Ruataniwha water storage project.
Initially the council planned not to release the documents until after it made its decision. Tukituki Choices outlined four options to manage the Tukituki river catchment, with two connected to the proposed dam in Central Hawke's Bay.
Some of the 161 Tukituki Choices submissions obtained by Hawke's Bay Today ahead of public release showed people acknowledged there was more demand for water and if a dam wasn't the answer, something else would have to be proposed.
Some submitters asked for more time for the public to consider options while others asked for a referendum on the dam given about $80 million of ratepayer money might be used to build it.
Climate change scientist Dr Gavin Kenny from Hastings said in his submissions that all of the options in the document were "very poorly developed" and none offered "anything worthwhile in their present form".
Dr Kenny said there had not been an in-depth analysis of the region-wide issues for Hawke's Bay, taking into account future climate change and other major global changes.
"It is simply wrong to assume and widely communicate, that a large storage dam will build resilience for the future."
Dr Kenny said the council should look at an in-depth assessment to identify the issues and a full range of solutions, some of which should include "no dam" scenarios for the Tukituki catchment.
"There is clear evidence that resilient farming systems can be developed without relying on large water storage dams. It is a misuse of ratepayers' money to both ignore such evidence and to lead the general public to believe that without a large water storage dam the region will stagnate economically and socially."
Hawke's Bay District Health Board's chief executive officer Kevin Snee's submission said Tukituki Choices did not provide sufficient information for it to make a decision on which option would have the greatest benefit for human health.
The DHB said it was aware the council had conducted more in-depth studies to support statements made in the Tukituki plan. "Unfortunately as these studies have only just been posted to council's website, we have been unable to complete a full review prior to the deadline for this submission," Mr Snee said.
Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Association said the security of extra water through a dam was commendable but it worried about the council was not taking a "whole of catchment approach" to look after people around the Tukituki river down stream, through the neighbouring Heretaunga Plains.
"We need to see evidence that provisions are made for the establishment and ongoing needs of lower catchment water users ..." executive officer Dianne Vesty said.