Presentation of the Save Our Aquifer Petition

This week I had the privilege of presenting the Save Our Aquifer Petition to Hawkes Bay Regional Council. This gave me the opportunity to speak to the submission for 10 minutes.

Never being one to look a gift horse in the mouth I connected a few dots which at first glance would not appear obvious. These were based around two particular comments I made:

After the débâcle that was the Ruataniwha Water Storage Stakeholders Group I am confident that there will be more emphasis placed on ensuring consensus recommendations which is as it should be. If this does not happen then the TANK Group could also be shown to be a sham, which does no good for the reputation of HBRC, and

Any comments made by senior staff employed in recent years are subject to scepticism because there is a perception they have been asked if they “agree with the RWSS” as part of their employment interviews.

Mike Mohi disagreed that there was no consensus on Ruataniwha Water Storage Stakeholders Group. He felt everyone agreed. I begged to differ and told him so. In a letter dated 6 September 2012 is is quite clear that five members of the group considered it dysfunctional. Hardly consensus.

Councillor Christine Scott took personally my comment that senior staff have been compromised. I fail to see how they cannot. Interim CEO Liz Lambert acknowledged that the question ‘do you agree with RWSS’ had been asked during job interviews, and especially when candidates who replied in the negative have not been employed by HBRC.

I wasn’t surprised that council did not support the petition. Using the word moratorium always gets them wound up from an RMA perspective. What the petition did do was reinforce just how pissed off the people of Hawkes Bay are with the lack of leadership shown by HBRC around water issues.

Luckly Councillor Peter Bevin proposed the fiollowing motion to council:

That Council:

  1. Agrees that the decisions to be made are not significant under the criteria contained in Council’s adopted policy on significance and that Council can exercise its discretion under Sections 79(1)(a) and 82(3) of the Local Government Act 2002 and make decisions on this issue without conferring directly with the community and persons likely to be affected by or to have an interest in the decision.
  2. Instructs staff that all newly granted water consents or variations of water consents on the Heretaunga Plains be advised to applicants as Class B water until such time as the TANK process recommends the volume of extra water that is available and any hierarchy of priorities for water use, subject to legal advice in support of this process.
  3. Commences discussions with central Government with regard to introducing legislation enabling the charging of royalties for water exported and sold offshore.
  4. To better inform any further water modelling related to the Heretaunga aquifer and the TANK programme, staff are requested to report on the potential need to commission the drilling of deep bores to establish the full extent and capacity of the aquifer and its sub-aquifers, and their relationships to surface water.

Points 2, 3 & 4 are important. Point 2 essentially meets the intent of the petition by bringing approval of consents in line with the discussions being held by TANK Group. I’m very happy with this.

Point 3 should widen the discussion about ownership of water and how it is managed as a resource. There are lots of issue to consider in this respect which will be the topic of further postings.

Point 4 is interesting and not something that I had considered. During the discussion about the motion it was clear that the models generated by the science team were less relaible when it came to deep water. This is because of a lack of data. Point 4 suggests HBRC do something about getting that data. Fair enough. It was interesting to watch the face of Head of Resource Consenting when this decsion was announced. If looks could kill. One wonders why the worried look?

If there is shown to be more water than estimated in the Heretaunga Aquifer then then why would we need another dam? Andrew Newman and Andrew Pearce would be spitting tacks about that. If there is shown to be less water than estimated then Houston do we have a problem. It means the Heretaunga Aquifer is overallocated.

We don’t know what we don’t measure so I welcome better information being obtained so that TANK Group make better informned decisions. What intrigues me is why hasn’t HBRC done this work already? Something worth thinking about.

Hawkes Bay Today Reports on the petition:

Aquifer petition to be tabled this week

$40m earn in royalties suggested

Call to halt water consents rejected

This entry was posted in Green Party, Personal Musings, Water and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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