A $275 million dam and irrigation scheme proposed for Central Hawke's Bay is a step closer after Hawke's Bay Regional Council voted this morning to invest up to $80 million in the scheme provided a number of conditions are met over coming months.

Regional councillors voted 6-3 in favour of proceeding with the investment of ratepayer money in the dam based on conditions including that investment is finalised from other investors, contracts are signed with water users to take a sufficient amount of initial water from the scheme and "satisfactory" environmental conditions are handed down from a board of inquiry that has been considering consents for the project.

Debbie Hewitt, representing Central Hawke's Bay on the regional council, said the project would address farming and social issues in the district and leave a legacy for future generations.

Tom Belford, who along with fellow councillors Rick Barker and Rex Graham, voted against proceeding with the investment, said the council had followed an "indefensibly defective" process in making its investment decision.

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It was foolish for the council to approve the investment before it knew the details of the board of inquiry decision, Mr Belford said. That decision is due before the end of the week.Council chairman Fenton Wilson said the 6-3 split over the decision was an example of democracy in action.