Don’t damn dam rally

June 20, 2014

Two Waipawa businessmen who are organising a rally in Waipukurau to support the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme:

Gavin Streeter and Shane Heaton are directors of Isaac’s Pumping and Electrical and have taken it upon themselves to show there is grassroots backing for the project.

“The project has been bashed to pieces in the media with the coverage focusing on the Environmental Protection Authority and how councillors are voting.

“We want to take a different approach – this is a rally by the people for the people – the entire Hawke’s Bay community needs to get behind this and show their support in the face of the negative attention the process is receiving,” Mr Streeter said.

Through their business they deal with farmers as customers and said there is a lot of positivity in the farming community about the project.

“The farmers have been doing their bit over the last few months. We thought we would do something on behalf of the local business owners, as it’s not only the farmers who would benefit from this.

Contrary to the anti-irrigation brigade irrigation doesn’t just benefit farmers.

They put up most of the money and have most at risk but the benefit is spread through the community to those who work for, service and supply them.

“If it goes ahead, it might mean we could employ five more local people at our business,” said Mr Heaton.

To that end they were out and about beating the streets in Waipukurau yesterday, visiting as many businesses as they could to spread the word about the rally dubbed “Don’t damn the dam”.

“We don’t just want people from Central Hawke’s Bay to attend, though. We want the big industries in Hawke’s Bay such as Pan Pac, Heinz Watties and McCains to get involved too – this project will have long-term benefits for the whole region,” Mr Streeter said. . .

Those industries will benefit too with more produce to process and sell, which will create more jobs.

Federated Farmers is backing the rally:

“We are calling on every person and business in Hawke’s Bay who wants to have a better future here, to get in their car, ute, tractor or truck and be at Waipukurau’s memorial hall car park on Friday at 12pm,” says Will Foley, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay provincial president.

“This Friday is our chance to show New Zealand how much Hawke’s Bay wants to create a positive future for our kids and their kids. The dam will provide so much opportunity for Hawke’s Bay.

“We are expecting a strong show of support and are positively backing Ruataniwha because this is our last shot before the Board of Inquiry delivers its final decision.

“Nothing of any worth has ever come from being negative.

“That’s why we need a positive show of support to demonstrate what we the people who live here want. The feeling in the community is positive and we need to make a stand to show how much of a game changer the dam is going to be for the region.

“The South Island’s Opuha scheme is a shining example of how the whole water storage package works for the economy and the environment.

“The answer to reversing the population drift to Auckland and reversing the loss of businesses and services is as simple as ‘just add water.’

“Federated Farmers is okay with having a number for nitrogen, but let’s make it an indicator and not chiselled in granite.  The whole scheme’s viability hinges on this policy point.

“That will only happen if we show everyone just what Ruataniwha means to us.

“You can do that by making a slogan banner to hang off your vehicle this Friday at midday at Waipukurau’s memorial hall car park,” Mr Foley concluded. . . .

From outside Hawkes Bay seems to have it all – good climate, good soils, a variety of viable businesses, a vibrant arts community . . . .

But it has an underbelly with high unemployment and the social problems which go with it and it’s drought-prone.

Irrigation would provide insurance against droughts, boost other businesses and create more jobs.

This is the province’s chance to lay a strong foundation for the future and the rally will indicate whether the people are willing to take it.


Who are denialists now?

April 24, 2014

Federated Farmers’ Hawkes Bay president Will Foley asks, who are the denialists now?

RadioLIVE recently ran an online poll asking its listeners if they were frightened of climate change.  To the shock of host Marcus Lush, two-thirds of respondents apparently said no, they’re not.  I would have said yes.

As some groups are cock-a-hoop over tough consent conditions imposed on the Ruataniwha water storage scheme and others think them lax, you have to wonder if this public climate weariness has spread to them too.

What it all means for the viability of Ruataniwha won’t be known until the 700-page decision is crunched but what I know is this.  If the scheme does not progress it won’t affect Green Party MP’s in their air conditioned offices or the paid Wellington staff at Forest & Bird.  They don’t have to worry about the El Nino being talked about for spring.  They don’t have to watch our region increasingly turn into a retirement village while our young drift to Auckland or Australia.  They don’t have to deal with crime since Hawke’s Bay bucked the national trend last year.

I cannot understand why some are so hell-bent on derailing a scheme, which gives Hawke’s Bay its best shot at adapting to a changing climate. Federated Farmers hosted Dr Russel Norman at the South Island’s Opuha water storage scheme a few years ago.  Memories seem short unless you are a politician.

With a medium level of confidence the climate experts say that average rainfall on the east coast will decrease this century.  This will lead to lower flows of the Makaroro River, Waipawa and Tukituki Rivers. The International Panel on Climate Change warns that by 2040, the East Coast can expect to double or even triple the time spent in drought.  This is our future unless we adapt and that means new pastures, crops, technologies and even animals.  Above all, adaption means storing water like that proposed by Ruataniwha.

I will be blunt to make a point; the shit in the Tukituki during summer low flows has mostly been human.  Up to 70 percent of phosphorous loading during low flows had come from the wastewater plants of Waipukurau, Waipawa, Otane and Takapau.  That’s thankfully changing with upgrades in hand while the allocation regime will put more water into the Tukituki during summer.

Ruataniwha could do more.  It could put a quarter of a billion dollars into those towns each year providing councils with the means to meet increasing drinking water standards.  This proves that the environment and economy are flipsides of the same coin.  If there’s no scheme, there’s no dam supported flushing and little additional money to upgrade existing plant.  Can anyone tell me the environmental win in that?

Is it just me or has the media and Ruataniwha opponents overlooked the IPCC’s warning that New Zealand is underprepared for a changing climate.  If anything, there seems to be outright denial since these groups seem to believe our rivers in 2040 will be exactly as they were in 2014.  It is not like the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company got a muppet to look into climate issues and Ruataniwha either.  Victoria University’s Dr James Renwick happens to be an international expert in this field.

While dryland places like North Otago have been averaging twice their normal rainfall over the past five years, in the same timeframe, we’ve had three droughts and it is dragging Hawke’s Bay down.  Out of 67 councils in the last census, Hastings District slipped nine spots to 30th spot, Napier went back one to 31st while Central Hawke’s Bay District dropped to 58th – losing 1.8 percent of its usually resident population.

If Ruataniwha’s consents are so tough they are Clayton’s ones, then it will be a Pyrrhic victory for the environment.  As the climate warms so will the waterways while the volume going into them drops. While that’s great for algae it doesn’t sound so flash for introduced trout or native fish and birds. 

While we can expect less intense rainfall we can store what falls and that’s the beauty of Ruataniwha and the secret recipe of our economy; just add water.

So is Ruataniwha perfect, probably not, but what is?  Do I have the information to make an informed investment decision? That now hinges on the consent conditions attached by the Board of Inquiry.  Yet debating the principle of storing water, given towns and cities do it, is a bit like debating the wisdom of sunblock, dumb. 

If we accept the climate is changing then we need to store water and adapt how we currently do things.  If you deny the climate will ever change then I guess you won’t be at the National Aquarium of NZ on 6 May, where NIWA’s Dr Andrew Tait is talking at 730pm on The Climate and Weather of Hawke’s Bay.

New Zealand makes a tiny contribution to green house gases.

No matter how hard we try to reduce emissions, we are at the mercy of other countries whose emissions are much greater.

We can continue to do our bit but we must also prepare to adapt to whatever nature throws at us.

If, as is predicted, parts of New Zealand will be hotter and drier, then water storage schemes like Ruataniwha which will enable irrigation and maintain minimum flows in rivers, are not just sensible, the economic, environmental and social benefits they provide.


Losing the farm to nature

May 3, 2011

The term losing the farm usually refers to financial problems but in Hawkes Bay it can be applied literally as record rainfall caused floods and slips:

Large areas of low-lying farmland were been flooded in the two-day storm; one station near Waipawa recorded 500mm of rain.

Marion McKee, who with her husband farms 610 hectares near the coast at Blackhead, said up to three-quarters of the property has been lost to slips and other damage, and their immediate neighbours had been hit just as badly.

Another coastal farmer, John Nation, said 530mm of rain in two days had caused deep slips on hillsides, destroyed fences, including boundary fences, and damaged buildings.

Mr Nation estimated about half his farm has been destroyed in the storm.

A Landcorp farm is among those worst hit:

Landcorp says much of Te Apiti station (1200 hectares) has been destroyed.

Chief executive Chris Kelly says 30% of the farm has been lost and boundary fences are largely gone.

The SOE estimates repairs will cost about $450,000.

The worst of the damage was fairly localised. Farmers outside that area welcomed 120mm of rain and will be able to help those who’ve lost large parts of their farm to nature.


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