Dam on deadline
Hopes are high that the Waimea Dam will get final approval by the end of next month. The deadline is looming for a final decision on the Waimea Community Dam and it has to clear its last hurdles to cross the line before the Crown irrigation investment fund that it is reliant on ceases to exist in midDecember.
On November 30 the Tasman District Council (TDC) will make that final decision after all the legal agreements have been concluded on the $102 million dam. Mayor, Richard Kempthorne, is optimistic it will be the green light for the dam.
“I'm expecting that will come through to a successful conclusion but I can’t guarantee it either because we have a political process to go through,” he said.
The project is dependent on funding from Crown Irrigation Investment Ltd (CIIL) including a $10m interest-free loan to the council and up to $25m to Waimea Irrigators Ltd (WIL) which the council proposes to underwrite. The project will be a joint venture with the council owning 51 percent of the shares and WIL 49 percent. Its dependence on CIIL funding means the project has to get over the line before CIIL closes the fund on December 15.
The other hurdle is the local bill going through Parliament which is needed to gain easement over 9.6 hectares of conservation land in the Mount Richmond State Forest Park to create the reservoir needed for the 53 metre-high dam. The bill also secures a right to construct the dam on Crown riverbed. In the past the TDC would have used the Public Works Act, but after the change of Government it required a local bill.
In its first reading, all parties bar the Greens supported the bill and Kempthorne said it should be relatively straight forward getting the bill passed, although it will likely be after the deadline for the irrigation funding.
“That may not be finished by December 15, so CIIL has said that is the one thing it can wait for.”
The dam has been a battle that was nearly lost in August when TDC councillors voted eight to six against the project after costs leapt $26m. The following week TDC held an extraordinary meeting for a revised funding proposal and another vote. The revised proposal extended the CIIL interest-free loan term to the council from 10 years to 20 years, while WIL agreed to meet its $11.5m of the increased costs and half the servicing costs of TDC’s $11.5m share. WIL’s share of the extra costs was made possible by plans to issue shares for another 2000ha to a New Zealand investment company.
That means WIL will be contributing 75 percent of the servicing costs of the extra project capital required which will reduce the effect on ratepayers. This time, the vote was nine to four in favour of proceeding with the project.
The proposal also included hydroelectricity in the project on the basis it was fully council-led and managed, as well as fully self-funded. Kempthorne said the hydroelectricity aspect would likely be a joint venture with the resulting electricity generated benefiting ratepayers. It would have no effect on the dam and irrigation as the water would simply go through a turbine and back into the river.
“WIL will be contributing 75 percent of the servicing costs of the extra project capital required which will reduce the effect on ratepayers.”