Council lowers water buy

By Sophie Price

7 comments
John Freeman.
John Freeman.
Andrew Newman.
Andrew Newman.

The Central Hawke's Bay Council has struck a blow to the Ruataniwha dam water uptake by purchasing significantly less than it originlly intended to.

Initially the council was looking at buying 1.5 million m3 from the water storage scheme, it is now purchasing a mere 250,000 m3 to service only the towns of Otane and Takapau.

The initial decision, made by councillors behind closed doors last November, was met with public backlash.

While the decision was subject to further due diligence and public consultation, if the council was to purchase 1.5 million m3 it would have come at a cost of an extra $45 for all ratepayers a year.

The recent decision to purchase 250,000 m3 was made by council last Thursday, in time to meet Monday's deadline set by the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment company for all water users to sign up to the scheme.

Chief executive John Freeman said that, in the longer term, the council was still considering buying more from the scheme.

"We will consider whether we need to once the dam goes ahead," he said.

Mr Freeman said before the decision to purchase the extra water the council would be looking at its long term and district plans, water modelling and conduct environmental due diligence.

He said no move to purchase more water than the 250,000 m3 the council has committed to would be made for six months. The public would be consulted if the council changed its mind.

The more targeted buy into the scheme for the two towns does not meet the requirements for public consultations.

The cost of taking water would be spread across water users, which would be spread over 4042 households in the two towns on a targeted rate basis.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council is holding an extraordinary meeting today but HBRIC will not be reporting to council on any aspect of the Ruataniwha dam.

This includes how much water has been purchased from the scheme by farmers who had until Monday to sign water user agreements with the investment company.

A condition precedent of the scheme is that HBRIC must sell a minimum of 45 million m3 of water before the council will hand over the remaining $66 million it has earmarked for the project.

Today's extraordinary meeting was called last week to deal with only one topic - the Napier-Gisborne rail line. The public is excluded.

Last week HBRIC chief executive Andrew Newman said the company would not be releasing any water uptake figures until it had reported back to the council and potential investors.

This was expected to take a couple of weeks.

When asked yesterday why the company was not reporting at today's meeting, Mr Newman said the water uptake figures were part of the larger Ruataniwha scheme project being co-ordinated by HBRIC.

"In the context of this project, one week is not significant, given the robust process that HBRIC has been contracted to undertake."

Mr Newman said there were other actions and reports to be prepared in advance of April 27.

Council chairman Fenton Wilson said his understanding was that the company would not have the final figures back by today and that the figures were one of a range of issues HBRIC was dealing with.

"There are still potentially contracts in the post, for example," he said.

Like the public, Mr Fenton said he too had a lot of interest in the total figure for the water buy in.

"I am quite happy to wait for HBRIC to come back with the results when that happens," he said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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