CHB residents have their say on dam issue (+ video)

By Sophie Price

6 comments

Central Hawke's Bay residents made sure their voices were heard loud and clear at the second in a series of meetings held to discuss the Ruataniwha dam.

Almost 200 people filled Waipawa's Municipal Theatre at a meeting to hear what regional councillors Tom Belford, Peter Beaven, Rex Graham and Rick Barker, had to say.

The meeting started with the councillors taking to the lectern to present to the audience what they saw the issues with the project were.

They covered the areas of the four condition precedents that the dam could proceed, the environment, the $43.1 million buy-in and farmers doing their own water storage.

The more vocal stated their positions loudly and clearly - that they were for the dam in their district.

Local land use specialist Chris Perly was one of the first to speak, saying what this scheme didn't do was ask why.

"It said CHB is declining, therefore we need a dam without trying to understand," he said.

"The solution is not actually to produce more, it is to position your product."

On the other side, former CHB mayor Tim Gilbertson questioned the validity of the information offered by the four councillors, saying it was out of date and incorrect.

He said the dam investment was no different to the investment of regional ratepayers' money in Napier Port.

"I think you guys have done a great propaganda exercise, you have picked up all the antis and all the reasons you can't," he said.

"We have listened to your point of view. It's slanted, it's full of half truths and I think you are doing a great disservice to the community in the long term by not backing the project."

Local dentist John Dukes wanted the regional council to solve the current ecological problems first, to loud applause.

"Prove that you can do that and then talk to us about intensifying farming," he said.

"But you and those that have preceded you have made a total bloody hash of this environment here."

Another crowd member who called herself "Joe Blogs from down the road" objected to the proposed 5 per cent rate increase if the $43.1 million regional council water buy-in goes ahead.

"I object to paying 5 per cent on my rates so the rich can get richer," she said.

Regional council chairman Fenton Wilson also addressed the crowd, saying the Ruataniwha dam has become a sticking point and "has become quite a convenient political point".

"I can't talk for any other councillors when I do my own decision-making process," he said.

"And so far, and I am not saying we are there, but so far there has not been a fatal flaw in this process."

Mr Wilson also took a moment to acknowledge the HBRIC directors.

"We don't have many professionals in this region, we don't have many professional directors," he said.

"It shows," an audience member interjected which was met by laughter.

"We are lucky to have the services of Andy Pearce," Mr Wilson continued.

"He has taken a lot of personal flak that I think is unfair throughout this process.

"But leave the directors alone. Quite simply, they are here to do a job as directed by us as councillors."

Of the people who voted in the straw poll at the end of the meeting, the tally came in at 79 opposed to the dam and 29 in favour of it going ahead.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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