A Green Party conference in Napier has been told plans for the Ruataniwha water storage scheme in Central Hawke's Bay are "subsidised pollution".
The claim came yesterday from party leader Russel Norman, at the party's North Island policy conference at Pukemokimoki Marae.
The proposed reservoir and irrigation scheme involving the damming of the Makororo River will lead to more intensive dairying by corporate farming concerns - meaning "more cows" and "more dirty rivers", Mr Norman said.
He said the Hawke's Bay Regional Council had "locked-in" the "huge" expenditure before the completion of a feasibility study looking at the need, cost and benefits, or how intensifying on such a massive scale could take place without "huge downstream environmental pollution".
Mr Norman said a "good proportion" of the water would be used to produce more milk powder off the land.
"This dam will bring more large-scale industrial dairy farms to Hawke's Bay driven by debt and shareholders to exploit the land, the rivers, the cows and the workers," he said.
"The regional council is meant to look after and manage our rivers, wetlands and aquifers," he said. "Instead they are subsidising pollution."
The dam plan is a "prime example" into an intensification model New Zealand cannot sustain, he said.
The current Government drive to triple agri-food exports by 2025 meant producing more cheap industrial food commodities, which he said is a "blind allegiance to a failing economic strategy".
"We in New Zealand need to decide whether we want to produce industrial ingredients or real food with proud provenance," he said.
The conference started on Friday and finished with a late-morning session after Mr Norman's address yesterday. The party's annual meeting is in June.