Central Hawke's Bay farmer Will Foley has bowed out of the provincial Federated Farmers presidency with a blast for Ruataniwha Dam opponents and hopes that the controversial canned proposal will soon be picked up by new interests.
In his last annual report, and handing over to new president Jim Galloway, Foley told the Hawke's Bay Federated Farmers annual meeting in Hastings on May 8 that "without doubt" the project, put on the backburner by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, had been the "defining issue" of his five years in the chair.
"It has been disappointing and frustrating to see the way it has come to a halt during this last year. The current regional council obviously has no appetite for the scheme and the sooner the current assets and IP [intellectual property] around the project can be sold off the better so as to allow a far better promoter to see what can be salvaged."
Foley, of Takapau, said he had enjoyed the challenge of the scale of the project from a "Feds" point of view.
"I got to know and deal with highly motivated, enthusiastic and passionate people that truly believe in a better and more prosperous Hawke's Bay."
Some who spoke out against Ruataniwha gained his respect and were "worthy of a debate", Foley said.
"There are others who just disregard facts and reason simply to stop change. The hypocrisy is one thing I won't miss."
He was critical of the new Labour-led Government for what he called a "negative tone around irrigation".
"It will take a lot of advocacy from Feds to continue to push the merits of irrigation and allow our members access to a potentially critical tool going forward with climate change and our export-led economy," he said.
The new president is steeling himself for the challenges, having been a member of Federated Farmers for about 18 years but stepping up about seven years ago out of concern about the impacts of Manawatu-Wanganui's Horizons Regional Council's One Plan resource management document, and has served as the Federated Farmers Tararua dairy chairman.
He said he will be "trying to head off issues before they blow up into a major", keeping an eye on who could potentially buy the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme intellectual property, the ramifications of the Tukituki River catchment's Plan Change 6 and the nutrient limit and water allocation strands of the TANK process, and other tasks.
The province's new president was born in Hastings, grew up on a farm in southern Hawke's Bay, completed an agricultural science degree at Massey and worked as a fertiliser consultant for nine years before starting to work the land himself, near Eketahuna.
With wife Lynette he now runs a 54ha sheep and beef farm in the district off Raukawa Rd near Hastings, but he also works on other farms in the area.
Foley is for the meantime keeping it local, saying he's not aspiring to higher honours, such as those achieved by predecessor and Te Pohue farmer Bruce Wills, who also became national president.
While supporting Galloway in settling into the top role, Foley plans to look after Central Hawke's Bay's interests as much as possible.
Officers elected at the Federated Farmers Hawke's Bay AGM were: President Jim Galloway; vice-president and dairy chairman Matt Wade; treasurer Ben Crosse; OSPRI representatives Matt Wade, Andrew Kerr, Ben Crosse; forestry Andrew Russell; executive - Will Foley, Matt Wade, Tim Aitken, Hugh Richie, Andrew Russell, Sefton Alexander (Wairoa representative), Hugh Abiss (Young Farmers representative). The arable and sheep and beef chair positions are unfilled at this stage.