The investment company driving the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme could be asked to implement a moratorium on it.
This was discussed at a Hawke's Bay Regional Council meeting yesterday, when councillors received and contributed to a report on the approach staff would take for a review of the scheme, commissioned earlier this month.
During this item councillor Peter Beaven put forward additional recommendations which would request the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) implement a moratorium on the project.
When the review was proposed earlier this month it was recommended council consult with the 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).
Mr Beaven said his recommendations were to "make clear the views of the shareholder to its subsidiary company" on how council saw the status of the scheme, until the review was complete.
The proposed moratorium would include ceasing any further expenditure on the RWSS design, development, or construction other than work currently committed or contracted, and not entering into any arrangement that would commit HBRIC or HBRC to further expenditure or obligations.
As well as its involvement with the Supreme Court over the needed land, HBRIC have sought to acquire it through provisions of the Public Works Act - the moratorium would include desisting from taking any further steps towards acquiring the land this way, or by any other compulsory means.
Because action and expenditure from HBRIC have been limited recently because it is tied up in a court process involving 22ha needed for the project to proceed, Mr Beaven's recommendations yesterday were "really only giving effect in a public way" to this.
However councillors Debbie Hewitt, Alan Dick and Fenton Wilson did not support the additional resolutions.
Ms Hewitt said she had "grave concerns" about the stability of HBRIC, given the recent resignation of chairman Andy Pearce, and thought discussions like these should be held with them.
"We need to be building on a relationship with them rather than sending them ultimatums such as this," she said.
Mr Dick said he did not believe council should be limiting its options, "nor should we be crossing over the possible intent of Central Government, who are our masters, and who are involved alongside with us in partnership in this project should it proceed".
Other councillors however spoke in favour of requesting a moratorium, because it would clearly articulate to HBRIC the desires of council.
Councillor Paul Bailey stated he felt it was something "the public would heartedly endorse."
"Certainly I've had significant feedback they wanted this step to be taken sooner rather than later."
The moratorium would be subject to any consultation required between HBRIC and HBRC, with such consultation to be completed and reported upon by December 12.
It would continue until council received and considered the information and advice detailed in the review.
The moratorium would be voted on at the council's next meeting, scheduled for December 14.
Yesterday councillors also received an update on the land swap appeal, and discussed the issues to be set out in the review.
Its cost is expected to sit between $130,000 and $150,000, which will be capitalised to the Ruataniwha scheme, in line with prior investigative works to date.