Plea for regional cash to fund dam

By Simon Hendery

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ECONOMIC POTENTIAL: The site of the proposed Ruataniwha dam and irrigation project.
ECONOMIC POTENTIAL: The site of the proposed Ruataniwha dam and irrigation project.

Central Hawke's Bay District Council says not investing in the Ruataniwha dam would be a "gross dereliction" of Hawke's Bay Regional Council's responsibilities.

The claim is part of the district council's response to the regional council's call for submission's on its proposal to invest up to $80 million in the Ruataniwha dam and irrigation scheme for Central Hawke's Bay.

The $275 million scheme would provide irrigation for up to 25,000ha across the Ruataniwha Plains and the regional council says it would boost the local economy by more than $200 million a year.

The Ruataniwha water storage scheme (RWSS) project is strongly supported by the CHB district council, which is considering investing $5 million in the scheme.

The district council's finance and services committee yesterday hosted Hawke's Bay Regional Council staff and politicians to discuss the Ruataniwha project.

The district council was yesterday given a briefing on the project by regional council chief executive Liz Lambert, chairman Fenton Wilson and Andrew Newman, the chief executive of the council's investment arm, Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company Ltd.

Debbie Hewitt, the regional council's Waipukurau-based Central Hawke's Bay constituency councillor, also attended the meeting.

Mrs Lambert told the district council 60 per cent of the economic benefits of the scheme were forecast to flow into the CHB district.

Ms Hewitt said the dam was "the most tremendous opportunity Central Hawke's Bay has had for a long time" and she asked councillors to encourage residents in the district to lodge submissions with the regional council.

Submissions close next Tuesday and the council is due to vote on whether to proceed with its investment in the scheme on June 25.

Ms Hewitt said the submission process was "too important to be left for just Green Party pro-forma postcards to turn up en masse".

At a full council meeting, following yesterday's finance and services committee meeting, district councillors finalised the wording of their submission to the regional councillors.

"We believe that not investing in the RWSS would be a gross dereliction of HBRC responsibilities to residents and future generations of Hawke's Bay residents," the submission said. "Central Hawke's Bay District Council sees the surety of water, the protection of the [Waipawa and Tukituki] rivers' environment and the creation of 2000 new jobs on and off farm in Hawke's Bay as a win-win outcome for the future of both the environment and economy of the region."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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