The company which spent years driving the controversial Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme is now "testing the appetite" of the Government for the project, or a version of it.

In August the Hawke's Bay Regional Council agreed to park the $330 million irrigation project, after a Supreme Court decision ruled out a land swap involving 22ha of Ruahine Forest Park needed for the project.

While the council has moved on from the scheme its investment arm, the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company Ltd (HBRIC), has been working to salvage what it can and is currently looking to see whether or not there is potential for legislative reform.

HBRIC is still the consent holder for the scheme, and was told last year the project could proceed if a private investor aligned with the company.


Yesterday HBRIC chairman Chris Tremain said the directors were very conscious of their "fiduciary responsibility to protect whatever value we could in the scheme".

Following last year's developments Mr Tremain said they considered the nearly $20 million already invested in the scheme, which was a "significant value you just don't walk away from, and particularly as we weren't sure who the government was going to be".

The former National Government had signalled it would look at a law change around land swaps, however the Labour Party had a "different message".

In light of this uncertainty Mr Tremain said he felt HBRIC had "quite rightly" decided to write down the value on their books to about $7million.

This was done "on the basis that as soon as possible after the election we'd meet with ministers ... to test the appetite, if any, for the scheme or any amendment or version of it".

So far the former MP had met with one minister on behalf of HBRIC with more meetings planned over the next month. At this stage he said he could not comment on any indication received about the RWSS as he had not yet briefed the board and the council.

Back in August the council authorised HBRIC to sell any intellectual property developed to date in connection with it such as resource consents or the dam design.

Mr Tremain said there had been some discussions with water users in Central Hawke's Bay, but at this stage no agreements had been reached.

HBRIC would be reporting back to the council with advice in the coming months.

Council chief executive James Palmer understood the HBRIC board would soon be considering its future ownership, and associated accounting treatment, of the scheme's consents and intellectual property.

After receiving advice from HBRIC, the council would need to make decisions around this.

Aside from a law change, the other avenue to secure the land needed for the scheme was through the Public Works Act. Last year the council said it would not support any attempts to acquire the land this way.