The babies of today might grow up “burning down old people’s homes” if Hawke’s Bay doesn’t move fast enough to solve climate change-driven water shortages, a man trying to revive large-scale water storage says.
The potential for a 115-million-cubic-metre annual deficit of water by 2060 was laid bare in Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Regional Water Assessment released at the end of June.
Even a more modest prediction, assuming the implementation of “significant” water savings and efficiencies (a 1 per cent reduction annually, adding up to nearly 40 per cent by 2060), modelled a shortfall of nearly 25m cubic metres by 2040, increasing to 33m cubic metres by 2060.
One of the potential solutions to this would be to increase the supply of water available to the region, through large-scale storage in Central Hawke’s Bay.
But it’s controversial. In 2017 the $330 million Ruataniwha dam project was scrapped by the council after the Supreme Court found the Minister of Conservation acted illegally by trying to make 22ha of Ruahine Forest Park available for it.
Roughly $20m of ratepayers’ money had already been invested into the project, but the council voted to move on, and sold the consents for the project to Water Holdings Hawke’s Bay.
It now wants to make a similar project under a new name, the Makaroro Storage Scheme, using the same consents.
But it also finds itself in a stoush with the council over how much it should pay for annual science charges on the consents - so far it has paid just $100 in the form of two $50 notes thrown by Tim Gilbertson at council leaders after a meeting.
Gilbertson, chairman of directors for Water Holdings Hawke’s Bay, announced on Thursday that company directors Gavin Streeter and Bruce Stephenson had stepped down after five years on the board.
In an emailed media release, Gilbertson paid tribute to the tireless work of the two men, and said the need for water security loomed “larger and larger with each passing day”.
“In view of the rapid onset of climate extremes locally‚ nationally and internationally, [I’m] hopeful a sense of urgency will lead to rapid progress towards a solution to an escalating crisis.
“Otherwise ... today’s babies might well be burning down tomorrow’s old people’s homes, with us old people inside them.”
He said much of the original Rutaniwha scheme involving the Makaroro dam, restoration of Lake Whatuma, and hydroelectric generation, were as valid now as when the scheme was first considered in 2010.
“Environmental considerations are now more than ever first and foremost. Additionally, Cyclone Gabrielle recently brought front and centre the role the Makaroro dam and using Lake Whatuma as a buffer could play in reducing flooding and the stop bank breaches that the cyclone caused.”
He said Water Holdings Hawke’s Bay was working with the council to settle outstanding financial issues and said the company was willing to meet its obligations, as long as charges levied by the council were “fair and reasonable”.