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Dambusters must not dam Hawke’s Bay’s future

Dambusters must not dam Hawke’s Bay’s future

The draft report from the Tukituki Board of Inquiry is a poor outcome for the entire Hawke’s Bay community, not just farmers.

“The recent Board of Inquiry draft report won’t be a good outcome for Hawke’s Bay if it ends up blocking the single largest environmental and economic opportunity we’ve got from progressing,” says Will Foley, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay provincial president.

“We mustn’t kid ourselves that Ngai Tahu’s polite wording in its withdrawal, simply reflects the kicking Ruataniwha got in the draft decision.

“They are a big loss but Ngai Tahu is also one very smart farmer. If it can see the scheme is a financial goer then I am certain they’ll be back, as will other investors.

“This could become an opportunity to get further direct farmer investment in the dam, as we have seen in the very successful Opuha dam scheme down in South Canterbury.

“Whatever the ownership structure is, to make progress, the Board of Inquiry has to use its one-month extension to seriously revaluate the evidence of experts like NIWA.

“NIWA and the Cawthron Institute aren’t muppets. Their evidence is backed by serious science so must be treated seriously.

“This dam matters to Hawke’s Bay. We can be much more than one huge retirement village.

“The Board of Inquiry’s draft decision says it doesn’t wish to burden good farmers while balancing economic development with protection of the environment. It may sound good in theory but that’s not the practical outcome of its draft decision.

“Its draft decision means existing sheep and beef farmers and horticulturalists will need a consent as our current farming methods will be deemed to be against the law under this draft decision. That is whether the dam proceeds or not.

“If the Board’s draft report rubber hits the decisions road, most farmers will be caught in its dragnet. It puts the future of all farming on the fertile Ruataniwha in jeopardy including me.

“With NIWA and Cawthron Institute input, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council wanted to strategically manage both nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) right across the catchment. This sensibly covered town and country alike.

“Water quality is the responsibility of everyone in the community and it shouldn’t just be about one nutrient. Yet the draft report focusses mostly on nitrogen and it doesn’t make sense to me if you actually care about water quality. In a changing climate, locking the Tukituki river into a future with variable and low flows doesn’t make sense either.

“We now appear to have a proposal which, frankly, overcooks the emphasis on nitrogen so much that the pan has boiled dry. That pan is farming and the Hawke’s Bay community.

“This draft report will likely catch all farmers, not just dairy that some wish to focus on. We’re talking the guys who grow crops, the guys who run orchards and even the guys who grow the grapes our region is famous for.

“Sheep and beef farmers like me will likely need a consent just to do what we do now.

“I get that the Board of Inquiry has had a lot to do in a short amount of time. This extension will give them the space to fully revaluate all the evidence presented to them. It’s a chance to get the final decision right.

“We all know that Hawke’s Bay gets dry and there’s the prospect of climate change so this dam provides an opportunity to make a real difference. This puts the ball in the court of both government and the opposition parties.

“We must call out empty promises of climate change adaption and regional economic development because Ruataniwha is both.

“If you oppose Ruataniwha you are saying climate change isn’t real despite a potential El Nino and that you don’t give a rats about the regions,” Mr Foley concluded.


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