Council to spend big on dam

By Lawrence Gullery

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The $80 million of public money to be invested into the Ruataniwha dam this year could draw the most attention when the Hawke's Bay Regional Council releases its draft annual plan on April 3.

The regional council met on Wednesday to rubber stamp the plan and confirm the multi-million dollar investment for the proposed dam in Central Hawke's Bay.

Councillor Liz Remmerswaal said she believed the public had not had enough time to consider the major investment and asked for more opportunities for people to have a say.

The council's operations general manager Liz Lambert said people had already had their say, through a number of public submissions to the council's long term plan reviewed in 2012.

Councillors were reminded there would be more opportunities for people to have their say on the dam as it progressed over the coming years.

The council would collect $15 million in rates for the 2013/14 year. It represented a rate increase of 4.57 per cent, up on the projected 4 per cent, due to the costs of two flood control and drainage schemes north of Wairoa and in Central Hawke's Bay.

The council planned to spend $66 million in 2013/14 funded through rates, government grants, loan funds, reserve funds and investment revenue.

The council's plan has also flagged a $15 million investment towards a logistics centre for the Napier Port at the proposed Whakatu road and rail hub.

It has, however, decided to delay its $27 million investment in the Ngaruroro Water Scheme in favour of focussing on the Ruataniwha dam project.

The council had also pulled out of its $47 million long-term investment for the "Trees On Farms" project. It involved working with farmers to plant trees on steep, erodible parts of farms and in return the council would receive a share of carbon credits earned from the scheme. The price of the credits dived, however, and the council said it could not get a return on its investment. Councillor Tim Gilbertson said the project would still have environmental benefits for the land, even if it did not return a financial one but he could not persuade other councillors to put the initiative back into the budget.

Councillor Christine Scott said if people indicated they wanted the project, through the annual plan, rates would be put up and the finance available to make it work.

She said the council had not turned its back on the project and if there was an alternative funding source, it would progress.

People can write and present submissions to the council at a hearing likely to be held in May.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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