Accountability sought on plan

By Lawrence Gullery

Hawke's Bay's dry spell puts another tick beside the plan to build the Ruataniwha water storage dam but a range of concerns remain on how best to manage the project's major component, the Tukituki river catchment.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council staff are just a month away from presenting the final draft version of the Tukituki Plan Change, which aims to set out the environmental bottom lines for all activities in the catchment.

It includes rules on taking water, discharging into the catchment water and land use.

If the Tukituki Plan Change is approved by council at its meeting on January 30, 2013, it will go out for public comment.The plan is being produced alongside the initiative to build the Ruataniwha water storage project in Central Hawke's Bay.

Councillor Neil Kirton said the science backing the projects was of a high quality but questions were still unanswered about the accountability to the public.

"I have a range of concerns about transparency in terms of connecting with the public on it. There is also an issue around the accountability between the public and the [council's] holding company, which is now taking over the [dam] project.

"Feedback to council is very loose and leaves the council open to criticism that only a select elite are running the entire project."

Mr Kirton raised some of the issues at the council's final meeting of the year and this week said he would hope to see some of the problems resolved in the new year.

"It appears to me the language used [in the plan change report] is very much about controlling the allocation of water and treating that as an outcome but that's just a small aspect of it. The focus should be on how we achieve the environmental and economic values we want.

"We are trying to project the environment of the Tukituki catchment but there will be economic impacts for land users. I am concerned the document does not reflect each plain of view.

"Our current dry situation provides an opportunity to think about what we can do to mitigate the economic and environmental impacts of building the dam and changing the way we manage our catchments."

Regional council reported rivers around Hawke's Bay were heading to critically low levels.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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