Ceasing all work and expenditure on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme while it is reviewed will be one of many controversial topics discussed at tomorrow's Hawke's Bay Regional Council meeting.

This will be the first ordinary meeting for the council, following an election labelled a "referendum on the dam" which saw more councillors who questioned the dam, than those who supported it, elected.

However, newly appointed chairman Rex Graham said the dam was not the only issue the new council would focus on.

"We were sent a very clear mandate from the electorate on a raft of issues, not just on Ruataniwha," he said.


Tomorrow's agenda also included points on the public notification of water bottling consents, feedlots, and a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas within the region's aquifers.

"We're very determined to move as fast as we can on all these issues," Mr Graham said.

"This is just really an indication that we intend to be a very active council on all fronts."

Tomorrow's agenda recommends council agree to commission a review of key commercial, economic, and environmental elements of the RWSS - including aspects of the business case, the operation of the scheme's resource consents, and the impacts and consequences of implementing plan change six with, and without it.

It was proposed staff report back to council at their meeting on November 30. A review could be completed by the end of February.

Although there were a range of views on the scheme at council, "from the extremes of each end and people in the middle", Mr Graham said he was confident a review would be commissioned.

"It is our determination to have a cup of tea on Ruataniwha. Our community are insisting on that."

It was also recommended council consult with those driving the scheme -the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company Ltd (HBRIC) Board of Directors - on issues stemming from any direction to suspend activities relating to the scheme, by way of a resolution to modify the company's Statement of Intent (SOI).

It was understood HBRIC had a number of obligations which could be implicated if new direction was given and was contrary to existing direction under its SOI.

If council did wish to provide further direction by way of a resolution to modify the SOI, it was recommended councillors seek independent legal advice on the implications of this.

Depending on the board's views, it was possible any direction could be at odds with the board's responsibilities under the Companies Act 1993.

HBRIC's monthly update - also on tomorrow's agenda - stated reduction in expenditure on the project had already been "progressively implemented" since late September, as the court process involving 22ha of land needed for the project, continued.

If council agreed to these recommendations there would be implications - from requiring council staff to de-prioritise existing work programmes, unbudgeted expenditure to procure external advice, and possible financial implications for HBRIC if their SOI was modified.

Also on tomorrow's agenda are ways to consider policy matters which newly-elected councillors indicated they wanted to progress during the election period.

This paper recommended council request the proposal of a plan change to prohibit the drilling for oil and gas within the region's productive aquifers and surface water bodies.

It also included updates on the public notification of water bottling - where a staged approach was being proposed - and feedlots.

Staff were currently working with a consultant on a process for reviewing feedlots "within a Hawke's Bay context", which could assist landowners in seeking consents, and were looking to provide guidance on expected standards for operations which did not need a consent.

- Tomorrow's meeting will be held at 9am, in the Hawke's Bay Regional council chambers.