With the announcement that there has been a farmer commitment to purchasing 42.3 million m3 of dam water you would have thought the issue of the RWSS was all over. It’s not. The consultation on environmental flows is but one of the issues outstanding. In the council’s annual plan we are being asked to spend $36.9 million on environmental flows in the Tukituki catchment. We are asked to choose from 3 different options and submit on them accordingly.
Option A – Gives HBRC 34 million m3 water free for seven years and then the requirement to purchase 4 million m3 per year for environmental flows at a pre set price, with a total cost of $36.9 million over 35 years
Option B – HBRC purchases additional water in future at market rates, to satisfy environmental flows, at an unknown cost
Option C – No provision is made for environmental flows, with no cost to HBRC.
The consultation document states that “The public will be asked to make a commitment before the precise projects are fully identified and prioritised.” I don’t know about you but before committing ourselves to expenditure of $36.9 million I believe we should know what we are getting for our money. What projects are the projects intended and have alternatives been fully explored? Take fixing Lake Whatuma for example. The solution is not so much about making a stagnant water body flow again, it is about the level of the lake. Buying out surrounding land and raising the exit to the lake to hold more water is not going to cost $36.9 million. Its about making an attempt to bring the lake back to a more natural state.
The dam’s resource consents set out the environmental flows that have to be provided at no cost to the ratepayer. The scheme has to provide flushing flows, and minimum flow levels. Under Option B what HBRC is actually suggesting are additional environmental flows. Now I’m all for improving environmental flows but will the Tukituki River actually need them once Plan Change 6 and the 0.8 DIN limit kicks in? We are being asked to agree to the expenditure of over $36.9 million taking on blind faith that it is actually needed. Again, why are we being asked to make a commitment before the precise projects are fully identified and prioritised? Not an attractive option to any thinking person.
This leaves us with option C. To state that there will be no environmental flows under this option is disingenuous for the reasons outlined above. We could always insist that HBRIC just allows additional flows at no cost if it can be justified that they are required. After all HBRIC belongs to us, the ratepayers. If this means that they have to go back and renegotiate with outside investors, then so be it.
There is also the question of committing $36.9 million of profits from the scheme and the Port to this one catchment. Think about what other environmental uses this money could be put towards. Where is the money coming from to fix Lake Tutira? What about Waihi and Waiau Rivers in Waiora? What about the upper Mohaka? To me this is the biggest hole in the analysis provided by HBRC in this consultation. It demonstrates how rushed this whole process has become and the lack of thought that has gone into this proposal.
So I’m going to keep my submission short and simple. So the politicians will understand it. It will support option C, even though it is not perfect. It is the Clayton’s option. The option you make when you don’t have any alternative. Like most ratepayers I want to stop dogs dying in the Tukituki River, I’m just not convinced that spending $36.9 million of our money is the best solution. It is money that could well be spent elsewhere so we get a bigger environmental bang for our buck. Because HBRC has not even considered putting alternative options to us they do not deserve our support by approval of options A or B.
So please attend one of HBRC’s road-shows, make a written submission on this proposal, and then speak to it at council. It’s not that scary. Just responding saying “I support option C” is enough to get you sitting in front of council and letting them know how you feel about this deal. It counts when they consider the percentage of submissions which support each option. Making a verbal submission is also very effective. After all it’s election year and you have more rights than just the ability to place a tick on the ballot. Take advantage of your rights, the council certainly does. I’m happy to help any one who asks. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, your voice counts.