Lobby group Transparent Hawke's Bay has officially asked Environment Minister Amy Adams to delay the Ruataniwha water storage scheme but the project's promoter, Hawke's Bay Regional Council, says it's unnecessary.
The regional council's investment company, which is leading the project, was expected to lodge resource consent applications for the dam directly with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Ms Adams must decide to refer the matter to the Environment Court, or to a Board of Inquiry. Transparent Hawke's Bay believed it would more than likely "be the latter". Chair Pauline Elliot said the formal submission to Ms Adams comes after the group lodged a complaint with the Auditor General because it did not believe the council's long term plan provided enough information on the dam. Other problems included changes to the estimated costs which had changed the likely ownership structure; feasibility and economic reports were not completed until late in 2012 with no opportunity for further public hearings and there was no information on financial risk or potential risk to ratepayers. Ms Elliott said there had been public support for the information to be independently reviewed. "Given the magnitude of this project, and a time horizon of possibly 70 years, it would seem not only prudent, but crucial.
"There is genuine concern from highly credible and experienced people saying this is too big, and too important, not to get it right."
Regional council chairman Fenton Wilson said it wouldn't be a good idea to put a stop on a water supply solution, which had already been in play for four years, just as the region emerged from its worst drought in 70 years.
"The processing of resource consents by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is an important step towards determining whether or not there is a viable business case for the Ruataniwha water scheme but it is not the only one.
"The EPA process does, however, provide a national-scale, robust and independent evaluation of the project. It also allows opportunity for community input and feedback. Parties should be welcoming this approach, not fearing it or seeking its delay."
He said the scheme had been viewed by Audit New Zealand while the regional council had consulted twice on the project.