Dam on dead­line

The Orchardist - - Water - By Anne Hardie

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.”

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