Dam damned, what will plan b cost?

The Tasman District Council has voted against funding the Waimea Dam:

The Tasman District Council has decided increased costs for the Waimea Community Dam are unaffordable for ratepayers, meaning the project in its current form will not proceed.

The Council today decided in principle not to fund 51% of a $23 million capital funding shortfall for the dam.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the decision effectively meant the project would not proceed, as public consultation cannot occur before the deadline of 15 December when the Government will withdraw its funding for the dam of over $55 million.

“Unfortunately the additional costs are too high and the Council has decided it must look at other options for resolving our serious summer water shortages.” . .

Horticulture NZ CE Mike Chapman calls it a damning decision:

. . .This dam was going to supply water for urban households, support the area’s thriving horticulture, and ensure minimum river flows during dry periods, sustaining the aquatic life in the river. During floods, the dam would have helped prevent damage by reducing flood waters. Northington Partners, an independent investment bank and business advisory firm, forecast that not building the Waimea Dam could result in nearly $1 billion being lost from the Tasman and Nelson economy over the next 25 years.  Even the Council, which voted against it, has said that urban and rural water users will be facing significant water use cuts from this summer, following the   decision. One of the areas most affected by water cuts is plants. These are the trees, vines and the crops that provide employment and feed this region. If the trees and vines die because of a lack of water, it is unlikely that they will be re-planted and this means taking away economic activities from the district. This will result in job losses because without water there will not be highly productive fruit and vegetable growing.

So why did some of the councillors vote against this decision?  All members of the community, businesses and the environment in this area would be beneficiaries from the dam. I am struggling to understand why you would vote down such a beneficial scheme, as the dam was the most cost effective way to provide a secure water supply.

Did the Councillors consider the impact of climate change? We are looking at a future where there will be more adverse weather events, rainfall will become more variable, and drought and floods will be more frequent. Did they forget that last year, prior to Christmas, this area went onto water restrictions? Water storage is a vital mitigation to climate change so that during dry periods people, animals and plants have water to drink. Jobs and the livelihood and survival of their region depend on water. Without water there is not life.

The Tasman District is a prime horticulture producer of apples, kiwifruit, berries, broccoli, cabbages, lettuce and cauliflowers. Most of the fruit is exported, earning valuable overseas funds for New Zealand. The vegetables feed the region and other parts of New Zealand. How are people going to be able to eat healthy, locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables, if there are none because there is no water?  Do not think that imported fruit and vegetables will fill the demand. As the world’s population grows and climate change turns what were good growing areas into desserts, every country will be struggling to feed their own population, let alone others.

So this is a very short sighted decision that will damn the Tasman District for many years to come and see it most likely go into economic decline.  It is also a lesson for the rest of New Zealand: water storage is vital to mitigate the effects of climate change and make sure we can feed our people. Perhaps the Councillors would like to re-think this decision and think about providing for the District’s future generations.

The dam would have had considerable benefits and not just in providing enough reliable water for irrigators and household supplies.

It would also have provided recreational opportunities and environmental protection.

Water storage is the most environmentally friendly option for both irrigation and river health.

Opponents talked up the dam’s cost but ignored the costs of not building it.

The most obvious are those that come from lost production for farmers, horticulturalists and orchardists who won’t have reliable irrigation; the loss of jobs on farms, orchards and in businesses which service and supply them and lost food for both domestic and export markets.

There’s also the loss of reliable water for existing and future households and businesses.

Then there’s the environmental costs from losing the ability to maintain river flows in dry weather to protect flora and fauna and ensure a healthy ecosystem; and to hold water back during floods.

The problem facing the district isn’t just a shortage of rural water, there’s an urban water shortage too.

Doing nothing isn’t an option.

The council has damned the dam and must now come up with a plan b. What will that cost?

The last tweet from the now defunct Twitter account @WaimeaDam spelled it out:

 

 

 

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