To date, many of the aspects and questions around the dam issue have been discussed in great detail; however, as the song goes, there are (still) more questions than answers.
As anyone who's been involved with the dam process over the last five years may recall, Plan Change 6 (PC6) was part of the HBRC's consent application to the BOI to build the dam. The BOI set, as part of the consent, the in-stream dissolved inorganic nitrogen limit (DIN) at 0.8g/litre of water, to be met by December 31, 2030.
This presents a conundrum for the HBRC, HBRIC, Federated Farmers and all those signed up to take dam water. We know from available data that most of the Tukituki catchment already exceeds the 0.8mg/l limit. For example, my farm falls within the Maharakeke/Porangahau sub-catchments, which make up zone D of the dam's irrigation footprint. The DIN levels here, according to the HBRC's own December 2015 data, already exceed the limit by 50 per cent.
Given that Zone D contains large areas of prime land suitable for irrigation, that some landowners within the zone have already signed up to the scheme, and that we have only 14 years left to comply with the PC6 limit, how can HBRIC possibly comply with the limits with more irrigation and land-use intensification?
None of Canterbury's irrigation schemes have led to a reduction in river and ground-water nitrogen levels - in fact, quite the opposite. How will CHB be any different? They are either setting themselves, and every signed-up farmer, up for failure, or they have a loophole lined up which ratepayers are not privy to. What'll happen when December 31, 2030 arrives and the limits have not been achieved? Should we expect more Environment Court actions (and losses), as with the recent Ngati Kahungunu/HBRC PC5 groundwater case?
Consequently I firmly believe that HBRIC, Federated Farmers and Irrigation NZ have no intention whatsoever of meeting the BOI limits by the due date, and will endeavour to apply legal gymnastics to escape their responsibilities under the BOI consent. This is borne out by what Dr Andy Pearce said during an HBRC meeting in early 2015, in that HBRIC's opinion was that they would not be subject to this consent condition. Or they intend to use the "environmental flows", costing ratepayers $35.9 million, to dilute in-stream DIN levels to a point where they do comply? Another trick to get ratepayers to subsidise environmental polluters on an even greater scale than currently proposed?
To date HBRIC has not presented any compelling scientifically backed case which justifies the need for these "flows". One exception, perhaps, is water for Lake Whatuma, but again I have a nagging suspicion that the ulterior motive is to provide water to the Mangatarata stream through the lake, to distribute water to land in Zone N for irrigation purposes.
Yes, Lake Whatuma badly needs restoration, but this can be done without dam water, and at a vastly lower cost to ratepayers.
So what are the main motives for the stated 192 farmers and farm corporations supporting and/or signing up to the dam? It's not hard to deduce, as from HBRIC's own predictions up to 70 per cent of dam sign-ups are expected to sell their land within five years of it going ahead. Obviously capital gain and profit are the main motivators, and blow the environment.
I've heard a number of anecdotal stories from reputable sources that back this up, and estate agents have already cottoned on to this.
Lastly, the dam will be, despite HBRIC's protestations to the contrary, an environmental disaster. It's been well-documented through the BOI process, supported by many well-researched, scientifically backed articles and last, but not least, by the HBRC's own environmental consultants. If the dam goes ahead, the HBRC and HBRIC will be responsible for destroying at least 251ha of native bush (including the 22ha of DoC forest park), rare North Island braided riverbed, and about 12km of prime native fish habitat, comprising sections of the Makaroro River and Dutch Creek. No amount of mitigation or "environmental flows" will compensate for this loss for hundreds of years to come.
It is beyond belief that the HBRC, ostensibly there to protect our environment, actively promotes environmental destruction to benefit the intensive farming lobby and their profit ideology, all the while proclaiming that it'll provide net benefits to the environment - hypocrisy of the first order, and demonstrably untrue.
Fortunately Hawke's Bay ratepayers have not proven to be as naive and gullible as they thought, and HBRIC's ideologies are increasingly being exposed as flawed.
- Dan Elderkamp is a past co-chair of CHB Forest & Bird.
- Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org