With the changing of the guard in the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, there has been a lot of rhetoric and noise about the future of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme (RWSS).
Is all the noise designed to mask the awareness of the facts?
Seven of the current nine regional councillors have been through the RWSS process to date. Does the entire regional council, not simply the RWSS project, come to a standstill because two councillors are yet to get up to speed?
If not, then why single out for an independent review on arguably the best opportunity for growth, inclusive of environmental, social and economic implications, tabled in the region for decades? And then put it on hold to consider which superior alternatives could be used. None of which have been put forward.
HBRC undertook an extensive feasibility study regarding the best water use practices in the Ruataniwha basin following growing concerns about the health of the Tukituki River.
The feasibility study explored many avenues in depth. Ultimately it recommended that water storage; on the scale and in the location as proposed, was the best option to meet the environmental (deliberately listed first), economic and social needs of a project like this in Hawke's Bay.
To ensure that the various points of view were considered, there then followed another extensive and very public process - a board of inquiry over two years. There was also the formation of a distinct entity, HBRIC, to take the ownership of HBRC's assets, one of which is the RWSS project.
During the feasibility study and board of inquiry processes, all the various supporting and opposing views were considered. Opponents had their opportunity to state their case, as did those who support the project. Proper process was followed.
The decision was reached to push forward to see if the RWSS could become a reality. The risks were weighed up by those charged with doing so.
The decision was made to go ahead. Not everyone agrees with the decision - that's life.
At the meeting of HBRC on July 8, the council voted 7 - 2 in favour of the motion that 3 out of the 4 conditions precedent have been satisfied. There is consent for the construction and operation of the RWSS.
This consent was issued by HBRC. How could some of the councillors, having granted this consent, then vote that it wasn't there? Having taken the oath when sworn in as a councillor, that they "act impartially", can they vote against the existence of a consent they approved?
HBRC vision statement proclaims that it is their intention for Hawke's Bay to be, "A region with a vibrant community, a prosperous economy, a clean and healthy environment, now and for future generations". Please let us remember that Central Hawke's Bay is part of the big picture.
- Jerry Greer is a Central Hawke's Bay farmer who supports the building of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme and has signed a contract to take water from the dam.