Council hopeful calls for dam referendum

By Lawrence Gullery

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Havelock North horticulturist Rex Graham has put his name forward as a candidate for the Hawke's Bay Regional Council election and intends to demand a referendum on the Ruataniwha water storage scheme if voted into public office.

Mr Graham would contest the Hastings ward of the regional council and said the proposed dam needed further scrutiny as it was the region's "biggest ever" investment being pushed through in haste.

"And we need to slow it down. I am yet to find a person that clearly understands this whole project.

"An investment of this size needs to be thoroughly understood, debated and determined by the people. It is their money and their future at risk."

He said a binding public referendum would ensure public opinion counted in any decision made over the water storage scheme.

Mr Graham said it was time for a change at the regional council as the "old guard" had become distant from constituents.

" ... As was highlighted during the drought when they treated many of the growers in Heretaunga with scant regard.

"It was an unacceptable performance from an elected body which has a poor understanding of the importance of our primary industries, their impact on jobs and the economic viability of our region," he said.

Mr Graham supported amalgamation of Hawke's Bay councils so the region could work together as "one voice on the national stage".

He was also a strong advocate for Hawke's Bay to become GM free.

"We need jobs and industry that is sustainable and works in harmony with the environment not against it.

"There is no victory in having more money, more cars, more TVs and more plastic if we can't swim in our rivers, eat our fish, drink our water, or see the stars."

Mr Graham had been involved in the horticulture industry in New Zealand, Australia and China for more than 30 years.

He was born in Hastings and was educated in Hawke's Bay. He is married with six children and was a director of several private companies involved in horticulture and intellectual property.

He was a trustee of the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park, chairman of the U-Turn Charitable Trust and a trustee of Te Aranga Marae.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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