A meeting in Waipawa last night wound up with a whiteboard full of questions about the Ruataniwha dam and a promise they would be passed on to Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company to be answered.
About 100 people attended the meeting at the CHB Municipal Theatre, organised by lobby group Transparent Hawke's Bay, to discuss the the proposed Central Hawke's Bay water storage scheme.
THB chairwoman Pauline Elliott said the group had been working to get an understanding of the economics of the project. "That understanding has been, and still is, very difficult to get a handle on," she told the meeting.
With HBRIC, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's investment arm and the promoter of the Ruataniwha team, not in attendance last night, the questions from the floor and from invited speakers about the scheme were left to mount up.
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Regional council communications manager Drew Broadley was at the meeting, but answered only one question.
Regional councillor and self-declared dam sceptic Tom Belford was more talkative, responding to a question on whether HBRIC had considered on-farm storage options instead of a single large dam by saying he didn't believe HBRIC had spent "more than an afternoon considering that option".
HBRIC was invited to the meeting but said the group's preference for the company's commercial manager, Duncan MacLeod, to attend could not be accommodated because he had a prior commitment.
Speakers last night included Wellington economist Peter Fraser, who recently published a paper which concluded there was "no economic or commercial rationale to proceed with" the Ruataniwha scheme. His analysis was rejected by HBRIC.
Farm adviser Barrie Ridler presented slides filled with analysis he said was taken from the council's and HBRIC's own reports which he said showed the scheme would not be a viable investment for dairy farmers.
Otane farmer Andrew Wilson said the risk of the scheme appeared too high for the investment.