One of the things I think we can agree on is that the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme process has not gone as smoothly as had been anticipated by HBRC & HBRIC. We may disagree as to why this has happened but never the less it has. That’s why I was very interested to see in HBRC’s long term plan consultation document ‘Our Place’ a roll over of approval of $30,000,000 in funding for the proposed Ngaruroro Water Storage Scheme. That’s right folks – another dam, this time on the Ngaruroro River.
Without getting into the argument over whether or not we should have water storage schemes you have to ask why are we being asked to commit to another $30,000,000 investment before any feasibility studies have been done? I would have thought that at this stage in the proceedings we could have expected HBRC to seek public approval of funding of some independent feasibility studies which demonstrate a sound business, environmental, and social case for the Ngaruroro Scheme so that as ratepayers we can make an informed decision about committing to investing such a large amount of money.
This could be an exit point, an option that we ratepayers have not been offered with the Ruataniwha scheme because the decision to invest $80,000,000 was made based on two paragraphs of the 2012 long term plan and before all of the feasibility studies were completed. HBRC have continued to use this decision as their excuse for proceeding full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes. It seems to me that HBRC hasn’t learnt from past mistakes because it is heading down the same path.
No commitment should be made to invest in the Ngaruroro scheme at this stage. HBRC should only be seeking the funding for the independent feasibility studies only. If and only if these demonstrate a sound business, environmental, and social case for the Ngaruroro Scheme should we be asked if we wished to make a $30,000,000 investment. A decision which would be informed, rather than one based on platitudes and pipe dreams.
It is also interesting that HBRC believes HBRIC can mitigate against increases in the projected costs of Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme by “strong project management by the HBRIC Ltd Board” When was the last time you heard of a project this size coming in under budget? Has the board of HBRIC got some special super power which enables them to control the rising cost of labour and materials and somehow magic wand away any potential geo-technical difficulties associated with the building of the scheme? I would also have to question the competence of a board which has failed to keep to any proposed time schedule (how many times has the date for financial close been extended?), has yet to meet any of the four conditions set down for the scheme to proceed, and has lost every major legal battle they have fought. I heard a story recently that one board member said in private that they “wished they had never got involved with HBRIC” and that they were “disappointed with the chairman”. So personally I have trouble reconciling the past performance of the board of HBRIC with the statement that they have strong project management skills.
One of the Big Six issues is climate change. It’s great that HBRC acknowledges that climate change is a strategic issue. However by proposing that no specific initiatives are proposed for reducing carbon and regional emissions ignores one of the major contributors to climate change. Why spend millions of dollars on a cure without treating the symptoms?
Our Place is silent on developing a moratorium on the release of GMOs in Hawke’s Bay. If Northland Regional Council can do this why not HBRC? I remain supportive of Pure Hawke’s Bay position around being able to market ourselves as GE Free. It is unfortunate that Federated Farmers thinking remains stuck in the 19th century over this issue, but why would we not give our producers an immediate boost in income at no cost to ourselves?
If these issues concern you, you need to be prepared to make a submission to Our Plan. You should have received a copy in your letter box, so go for it. I know that our elected representatives would love to hear from you.
Submitted 21/4/15, Published 25/4/15