The Ruataniwha dam conditions precedent may not need to be met for the regional council to invest up to $80 million in the project.
According to meeting minutes, the council resolves to invest if it is satisfied with advice from its investment company: "That all conditions precedent to financial close of the investment by all investing parties in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme Limited Partnership (RWLP) have been either satisfied or waived by agreement of the parties."
The conditions that need to be met include the 40-plus million cubic metres of water per annum sign up, the Environmental Protection Agency granting satisfactory resource consent condition securing the funding required to build and operate the RWSS infrastructure and obtaining a bankable construction contract.
Transparent Hawke's Bay chairwoman Meg Rose said this was troubling.
"There is a really worrying thing," she said.
"They could ask for those conditions to be waived and be pretty guaranteed of a 5-4 [council vote] that is okay."
However, regional council chairman Fenton Wilson assured that council will tick off to its satisfaction that those conditions precedent have been met.
"Even though it says that I think it is probably more a stock standard clause type set up in any agreement and that is how it was put out at the time," he said.
"The reality is we have come this far now - and we want to see those conditions met before we go any further," Mr Wilson said.
Last week Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company board chairman Andy Pearce tentatively set March 31 as a financial close, but did not want to be held to a set date.
A council spokeswoman said the company is aiming for the first quarter of this year or possibly early April, with some conditions subsequent, not precedent.
This comes at a time when the council signed off on $500,000 to effectively start construction on the project.
Its investment arm applied for funding with the Ministry of Primary Industries but it did not grant the full amount of funding the company applied for under the Irrigation Acceleration Fund. Councillor Peter Beaven said last week the ministry's decision not to give the full amount sought by the company crystalised a significant issue for him.
"It is basically that the extra funding that MPI refused to put forward is actually in effect to start the construction phase of this process in advance of the four conditions precedent being met [which the company must meet for the project to go ahead]," he said.
"And it is my view that we have no legal or moral mandate to agree to do that."
He said the regional council had a pact with the people of Hawke's Bay that when the four conditions precedent were met then they would hit the green light and put up the $80 million.