Council boss does about-face on dam
Lindsay McKenzie has changed his tune over the proposed Waimea dam.
‘‘From my personal perspective, I started out as a cynic,’’ the Tasman District Council chief executive told more than 50 people at a public meeting in Mapua on Monday evening.
‘‘As a result of work that [engineering services manager] Richard Kirby did when he arrived ... especially focusing on the alternatives, I became an advocate.’’
The council boss, who has resigned from the top TDC job and is due to finish in May, said the challenge of constructing the dam at the proposed site in the Lee Valley had not been underestimated.
‘‘I accept that this is a high-risk investment – dam construction inherently is – I acknowledge that,’’ he said.
Dam building was also not an everyday activity.
‘‘Having acknowledged the risk, though, you have to set that alongside the risk of doing nothing,’’ McKenzie said. ‘‘You have to set that alongside the certainty that nine years out of 10, unless there is a dam, there will be constraints on the use of water by households and businesses.’’
McKenzie, Kirby and council water scientist Joseph Thomas joined mayor Richard Kempthorne, deputy mayor Tim King and Moutere-Waimea Ward councillor Anne Turley at the front of the room for a short presentation followed by a question-and-answer session on the dam project at the start of a Mapua and Districts Community Association meeting. Crs Dean McNamara and David Ogilvie also attended.
The council and Waimea Irrigators Ltd are proposed joint-venture partners in the $82.5 million dam project, which is tipped to be funded by a mix of ratepayer, irrigator and Crown funding. A council consultation document on governance and funding options for the project is open for public submissions.
Kempthorne said a tender price for the dam construction was expected in March and it had to be in line with the $50m estimate ‘‘or close to it’’.
McKenzie said if the construction cost price came in too high ‘‘we might not have a fundable project’’.
The dam project is controversial, a point reinforced by association chairwoman Elena Meredith.
‘‘You can be sure there is not a consensus viewpoint in this room,’’ she said. ‘‘Please recognise that there is a diverse continuum of views ... and while we all know that people who disagree with us are obviously wrong, it’s still a good opportunity to make sure that we hear that there are a range of views here.’’
Meredith encouraged the attendees to outline their thoughts about the project in a submission.
Kempthorne said the proposed dam was about a secure water supply for urban areas and irrigation over 100 years along with improving the environment of the Waimea River.
Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith said it was ‘‘hellishly hard’’ for communities to build big infrastructure.
As a member of the previous National Government, Smith helped secure central Government funding pledges of about $40m for the dam project in the form of a grant and concessionary loans.
‘‘If this project is rejected and we try and do something different, is it not highly unlikely we’re going to get $40m out of central government,’’ he said.
Kempthorne said the new Government had indicated it would honour previous funding commitments but had also said it was not expecting to support future irrigation projects.
‘‘So if this one doesn’t go ahead, the likelihood is that all of that concessionary funding could be lost,’’ the mayor told the gathering.
Lindsay McKenzie speaks at Mapua.