Investors considered for dam scheme

By Sophie Price

9 comments
The site of the proposed Ruataniwha Dam, at the upper end of Makaroro River.
The site of the proposed Ruataniwha Dam, at the upper end of Makaroro River.

ACC and New Zealand Super Fund have been suggested as potential investors in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

There is also speculation of an Australian investor in the mix as well, Hawke's Bay Today understands.

While the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company remains tight lipped about the details of this condition precedent - which needs to be met for the scheme to go ahead - the group's chief executive, Andrew Newman, said steady progress was being made towards it.

"As negotiations are still progressing HBRIC is not in a position to name the potential private investors," he said. "Once they are confirmed HBRIC will publicly announce the investors."

He said how much potential investors were looking at putting into the dam could also not be revealed until negotiations were complete.

"It is fair to say that steady progress is being made," the chief executive said.

Hawke's Bay Today has, over the past few months, learnt that ACC and the NZ Super Fund could potentially be considering investing in the project.

When approached about this, ACC said it was unable to comment on any projects the Crown entity may be currently looking into.

According to a NZ Super Fund spokesperson it was not their policy to comment on any potential investments.

Regional councillor Rex Graham said councillors had been provided with "a couple" of potential names of investors under strict confidence.

"They [HBRIC] told us they were going to tell us who the potential investors are and they gave us a couple of names but it is highly confidential," he said.

"They said it would be ratified before Christmas and it hasn't been.

"They said that they would be able to release [the names] by Christmas so where are the investors?" Mr Graham asked.

Mr Newman said so far the company had confirmed a viable design and construction contract and gained consents for the scheme.

This happened in the later part of 2015, he said.

"Steady progress is being made towards confirming the final two conditions which are to secure investors and reach the water uptake target."

At the company's latest update to council, Mr Newman said since late December and in particular since January, five of his team had been 95 per cent focused on the financing workstream.

"That has been the major focus and what I have said here in this report [to council] is that with two institutional investors we are at a stage with term sheets," he said.

"Which have also been worked through with crown irrigation investments that we have confidence we are going to reach a commercially viable position with both.

"Having said that, we are still working through in detail ultimately which of those two we would ideally want to see as preferred."

He said while the company had not got to this point, it was close to it.

In regards to the water uptake workstream, the company reported it was in a holding pattern awaiting sufficient final clarity from the financing workstream before gearing up again.

"Consequently 31 million m3 has been countersigned with a further 11 million [m3] either in contracts awaiting signature, or in term sheets submitted by potential customers has not materially changed," the company's report reads.

At the recent update, Mr Graham said the process of water sign up had been going for a number of years now, so why hadn't the council hit the number needed to meet the condition precedent, he asked.

"I would have thought all those farmers would have made their mind up now," he said.

Mr Newman told council recently there would be "a significant push" on water uptake once preferred investors were locked and loaded.

HBRIC chairman Andy Pierce backed up his chief executive, saying the company did think the people sitting on the 11 m3 yet to countersign a contract with the company would do so once they heard the outcome of the judicial review and the announcement of an investor.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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