Cost of water plan not viable

By Lawrence Gullery

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A farm systems analyst consultant believes the regional council is "writing cheques its body can't cash" by trying to prove the economic viability of the Ruataniwha water storage project.

Consultant Barrie Ridler borrowed the famous quote from Tom Cruise's Top Gun movie to use in his submissions to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, to describe its determined effort to push the Ruataniwha water storage initiative through at all costs.

"I made two submissions and they were based on the economics of the project but I would have to say they've been completely ignored.

"The project seems to be infeasible and in the end it may be the ratepayers who will have to pay for it while those who were responsible and accountable for it, will be gone."

Mr Ridler's submissions were made to the Tukituki Choices discussion document, which is being used now to write a bigger draft plan change report determining how the Tukituki catchment should be managed.

The draft plan change will be presented to the council at the end of January and then opened to the public for comment. It will be closely linked to the proposal to build the water storage dam in Central Hawke's Bay.

Mr Ridler said it would be a further opportunity to put the council to the test on river water and quality issues, as well the viability of the dam.

"There are questions around how many people would want to buy water from the dam, whether it would make dairy conversion more attractive on the Ruataniwha plains.

"If you look at the big picture, the rainfall we have had this winter would not have been enough to recharge a dam of the size they are proposing.

"In terms of a farm conversion to a dairy farm, it is now more expensive than buying an existing dairy farm. It is about $50 per kg of milk solid when the Chinese bought the Crafar farms for $32 per kg of milk solid which was way above what anyone else was prepared to pay."

Mr Ridler, from Napier, works as a consultant for the Ministry of Primary Industries and Dairy New Zealand.

He said there were a large number of reports and peer reviews most people did not have time to wade through to properly understand all of the issues.

"We [public] only have so much time ... I think this will now come down to aspects of the environment, and the aspects of economics will be less of a consideration which is the wrong way to go. The two are linked from my point of view."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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