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Concerns remain over dam decision

Monday, June 8:

Concerns remain over dam decision

Wellington Fish & Game says the decision not to investigate the Mangatarere Stream for an irrigation dam means the worst case scenario has not been progressed.

“On the one hand, the most important trout spawning tributary of the Ruamahanga fishery won’t be destroyed,” says Wellington Fish & Game manager Phil Teal.

“However, if the dam goes ahead elsewhere, the already polluted Ruamahanga River would cop an additional nutrient burden from the intensive dairying that the irrigation scheme is designed to service.

“From a water quality perspective, today’s decision still puts the Ruamahanga River at risk of significantly degrading further.”

Mr Teal says Wellington Fish & Game supports environmentally sustainable farming, but he points out there are already major problems in the Ruamahanga catchment caused by existing agricultural and urban pollution.

“From the outset of these investigations, Wellington Fish & Game has been clear about its concerns – these being the effects of increased nutrients from land intensification that will result and setting limits to protect ecosystem health, as well as the impact of several of the proposed dam sites on key trout spawning habitat.

“We also find it difficult to have full confidence in processes where Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) is both the dam promoter and environmental regulator, and also sets the environmental bottom lines through its regional plan.

“If you look at Hawke’s Bay situation with the Ruataniwha project, it’s hard to see how the regional council cannot be conflicted in their dealings there.”

Wellington Fish & Game has additional concerns with the way the Wairarapa Water Use Project (WWUP), an arm of GWRC which is funded by ratepayers and taxpayers, has acted as a cheerleader for large-scale irrigation rather than provide the community with objective information about such schemes.

“Nowhere has WWUP publically acknowledged the financial risks of funding shortfalls to build a dam, water being too expensive for farmers, the impending rates hikes on all resident to pay for the project, the environmental threats, the privatisation of a public resource, and the other array of negatives that a dam will inflict on the Wairarapa community,” says Mr Teal.

“WWUP claims landowners are broadly interested in uptake, yet they haven’t revealed how much they would have to pay. And they’ve tried to buy support by making extravagant promises including recreational opportunities which are totally misleading – No-one wants to swim, sail or canoe in a reservoir that will only be full in winter or a mud bath in summer!”

Wellington Fish & Game says the promised environmental gains are equally hollow.

“We’re comfortable with the river flows as they stand, so for WWUP to claim that the environment will benefit from a concrete dam being erected on a river and restricting its natural flow is nothing more than greenwash,” says Mr Teal.

He suggests GWRC should learn from the dam debacles elsewhere in the country.

“Ruataniwha in Hawke’s Bay has failed numerous tests to get off the ground – most notably it doesn’t stack up financially or environmentally; Tasman’s Waimea dam requires a further multi-million dollar ratepayer handout; and Opuha in South Canterbury has compounded farmers’ problems in a drought year by failing to fill up.”


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