Dam Negotiations Will Continue to Secure Urban Water Supply, Council Confirms

Thursday 15 June 2017

The Tasman District Council has confirmed negotiations to secure the region’s water supply for the next 100 years are too important to be abandoned, agreeing to continue negotiations between the Council and Waimea Irrigators Ltd.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the decision reflected the compelling case for the dam.

“If there is no dam, more than 20,000 people in Richmond, Brightwater, Mapua, Wakefield and the Redwood Valley – as well as industry and homes in Nelson city supplied by our water scheme - will face significant water rationing nine summers out of 10 from 2018 at the latest. When I say ‘significant’, I’m talking about people having to cut the amount of water they use by up to half.

“That’s unsustainable. We know from experience that when we introduce rationing, that water use continues to increase – so relying solely on demand management to bridge the dry weather “water gap” between what the Waimea River can provide and what people want to use is not realistic.”

Mayor Kempthorne said the Council had a duty to provide a secure water supply to its community.

“Our job as a regional council in this kind of scenario is actually pretty clear. We have to provide water for our community, and we have to protect our environment by safeguarding the flow of water in the river. The Waimea Community Dam allows us to do both.”

Mayor Kempthorne said the Council’s partnership with irrigators made the dam the most cost-effective solution to the region’s water shortage.

“It allows us to solve four issues with one, cost-effective, solution – urban and commercial water shortage, river health, meeting the social and recreation needs of the community and preventing salt intrusion into our drinking water supply.

“The Council’s contribution to this project is not a subsidy to irrigators. Irrigators are carrying the highest cost and risk for the dam. The alternatives for securing our urban supply are actually far more expensive, don’t provide enough water to see us more than about 15 years into the future, provide no environmental benefits through increased flows in the river, and actually have the potential to harm our economy because we will be competing with irrigators for the available water. It makes sense for us to work together not against one another.”

“Having said all that the need to provide a secure water resource for the area is a challenging issue.  Continuing the negotiations will provide ratepayers with a full and complete picture about the costs involved.”

Next steps

Negotiations between the Council, Waimea Irrigators Limited and potential funding partners Nelson City Council and Crown Irrigation Investments Limited will continue to confirm the terms of a joint venture and the funding arrangements.

Public consultation on the entire proposal, including the funding split, the impact on rates and water charges, governance and commercial terms, will take place from November 2017.

A final decision whether to proceed with construction of the Waimea Community Dam is likely in early to mid-2018.