An open letter to Wairarapa Regional Irrigation Trust (WRIT) from Michael Woodcock, chairman of the Dam Free Mangaterere Society Inc.
We understand a decision on which preferred site(s) you intend to further investigate for the large-scale irrigation scheme is imminent. Ahead of that fateful decision Dam Free Mangatarere Society Inc (DFM) has some questions and an alternative perspective we believe are in the interest of the wider community.
Firstly, will you, against all common sense, name the Mangatarere as a final site to take to full feasibility analysis? Even though your own point-scoring system rates it as a less desirable site to dam due to the environmental and social impact (that's homes and jobs lost).
Your insistence that the damming and removal of over half of the water from these streams will somehow improve water flows and quality is at odds with current science.
Turning dynamic and variable streams into constant flow races will fundamentally and detrimentally alter ecosystems that have taken thousands of years to evolve.
Nor does it stack up economically. As the independent economist Peter Fraser, experienced with the struggling Ruataniwha and Waimea schemes points out, the cost of the dam, and the piping and infrastructure, will likely mean a minimum water price of 25 cents per cubic metre.
This is a price for water to mainly grow grass, which does not stack up for farmers, who could buy cheaper feed like maize silage with greater flexibility and far less on-farm costs.
Why are you not doing the smart thing and promoting on-farm storage that would see those farmers who have need, get through a drought period with their own stored water? Perhaps water from the current water race systems which criss-cross the valley for hundreds of kilometres could have some of the flow diverted during winter to on farm storage? Or, what of successful modern dry farming techniques of changing the grazing crop and literally storing more water in the soil with deep-rooted plants like Lucerne?
To us it appears a core group with vested interests has become fixated on a big construction project and despite the growing evidence, cannot say "hey we checked it out but we can already see it does not stack up".
But of course there are others who are doing very nicely thanks, from the three/four million already spent, with more to come, even before a dam is built.
Regardless of which sites you pursue, when did our community decide that doubling the amount of land used for dairy (your figures) get agreed too? A decision that could see about another 180,000 cows creating vastly increased nitrogen run off and further degradation of the Ruamahanga catchment.
The tens of millions this proposed scheme will cost would be better spent to develop the region in a more environmentally sustainable way.
Maintaining and creating a diverse range of better paid jobs than corporate industrial dairying will deliver.
Perhaps your announcement will galvanise others into action when those on small farms and lifestyle blocks on your coverage map realise whether they want it or not, the Public Works Act will see the pipes coming through or past their or their neighbour's property. Most likely it will be the fact that the economic proposition won't stack up and you may well expect ratepayers to subsidise your dream.