The final decision of the Board of Inquiry on Plan Change 6 & RWSS is not only welcome, but also not surprising. It was no surprise that the position taken by Andrew Pearce, Chairman of HBRIC, that customers of the RWSS had the right to pollute the Tukituki has proved to be totally incorrect.
The BOI has made it quite clear that RWSS customers are to be treated the same as every other farmer. They are required to be part of any plan to meet the 0.8 DIN limit. It was illogical to imagine that the BOI intended otherwise. Well done to them for making this clear.
This puts HBRIC into a compromised position. Since day one Andrew Newman has intimated that without the right to pollute the RWSS would be unlikely to go ahead. Is this the death knell for the dam? Where does that leave us now?
Most of the Tukituki catchment currently exceeds the 0.8 DIN limit. That’s why we have warnings every summer about swimming and walking dogs. So those that have discharges into the river need to clean up their act. This not only includes farmers, but the likes of the CHB poo ponds.
The poo ponds seem to be on the way to being fixed, although I await updated results with bated breath. It is farmers that are going to have the real challenges. Having to now obtain consents is going to sort out those who currently operate under best practice from those that don’t. It will be interesting to see how HBRC proposes to manage this issues.
HBRC has to ensure that the Tukituki is under the 0.8 DIN limit by 2020. Logic would dictate that HBRC cannot allow the Tukituki to get any more polluted than what it is at present. It cannot just hope that technology will fix things at some future date. So HBRC has to make some hard decisions. It’s just that many farmers will have to change they way they do things. They need too. Unfortunately, given the way HBRC manages consultation at present my guess is that there will be lots of fears and tears from these farmers. Luckily there are farmers who are managing their nitrogen really well, proving it is possible.
To my mind, it all boils down to one thing. Without the right to pollute can farmers get a satisfactory financial return from the capital they have to invest in irrigation infrastructure whilst paying what many believe to be an over the top price for water? Personally I don’t think they can, unless of course they are given sufficient incentive to do so.
For example Hugh Ritchie, one of the early sign ups to the scheme, is receiving a $650,000 discount for the first 5 years. With total subsidies presently at $10m and climbing, it would seem that HBRIC is being profligate with our profits. Is this the only way they can sign up customers? It sure seems so. Don’t forget, that’s money that could be used to off set proposed rates rises.
This is what makes me believe that even though HBRIC has been given a consent to build the dam it could hardly be called workable. Workable is the really important test here. It will be interesting to see how Councillors Wilson, Dick, Scott, Pipe & Hewitt attempt to justify approving the transfer of $80m to HBRIC if financial close is ever reached.
Like every good product sold on a TV infomercial there’s a ‘but wait there’s more’. The issue of the 22ha DOC land swap is nowhere near being resolved. One has to wonder why it took HBRIC so long to start this process. My guess is that they thought they could get away with the swap being non-notified, but DOC baulked realising that they had a legal obligation to do otherwise. No one from HBRIC has been prepared to state what effect the failure to finalise the land swap will have on the volume of water that can be stored behind the dam. It should be a very simple calculation to make.
Given how long cases take to come before the courts we can all hazard a guess as to how long this issue is going to take to get resolved. It will be fascinating to see how much cost is added to the dam build with any further delays to financial close. My guess is that it would be substantial. Make no mistake, any extra cost can be placed right at the feet of the HBRIC board for not starting this process earlier. Again that’s money that is coming from somewhere, and whilst HBRC might argue that the dam does not effect our rates, I’m sceptical. I hope you are as well.
Submitted 30 June 2015. Published 13 July 2015