Congratulations to the Waimea Irrigators who have secured a subsidized water supply for the next 100 years (assuming the dam can be built, functions as intended, and lasts for 100 years). I hope the smaller shareholders in WIL are informed as to what risks they carry. Given that 2000 shares have been sold to investors only 3000 shares are target rateable in the event council comes knocking for a share of any overruns. I suspect that some of the 3000 shares are held by people with an exit strategy also, although councillors have no idea who the shareholders (or the investors) are.
Businesses on the reticulated supply will also be celebrating. However, I hope they read the fine print of this dam that they wanted so badly. I also thought a dam was a good solution, but not THIS dam. If the costs start to overrun then water on the reticulated supply is going to be eye wateringly expensive given that we are starting from a position of the most expensive urban supply in the country. One can imagine in this scenario that Nelson residents being supplied from Tasman will insist that Nelson City Council supplies them water, and in that scenario, there will be another million dollars a year (current prices) that will fall back on Tasman residents and businesses.
Looking ahead (given that I have been accused of near sightedness among other things) we are destined for a similar problem that exists with the current over-allocation model. Urban supply should always have been protected as allocations were made on the plains. This did not happen and the council has repeated exactly the same mistake with the new dam supply model.
Given that the urban water user and businesses are paying for gold-plated shares in the dam (because it is not an irrigator subsidy) we should have a gold-plated supply guarantee. This would look something like a protected portion of the reservoir that can only be released to cover the urban supply. The deal that we have got is a deal where everyone is on the same restrictions.
During the summer the irrigators will be pumping full allocations and the tap on the dam will be opened to meet the demand. When the dam gets down to 20% capacity water restrictions will kick in across the board (irrigators, urban, and commercial). Everyone will end up on cease take at the same time just as occurs now. This will not affect the bulk of irrigators as they need the supply early in the summer before their fruit and crops are harvested. The most likely irrigators to be affected by late summer restrictions are market gardeners and dairy farmers extending their season.
However, the industrial users such as fruit processors, and the meat works will be hitting peak season as restrictions apply. Other industries also spoke about how they cannot afford any restrictions, such as the glue plant, cool stores, and the mall etc. Given the exceedingly high price our industries are paying for their “water security” I hope they are happy with the deal this dam offers for the next 100 years.
Since I am so nearsighted, my objection that there is no mention in the Terms Sheets of who pays for the decommissioning of the dam is obviously redundant also. But what do we care, we won’t be around in 100 years
In the short term I only have to worry about the degraded state of the river, a responsibility in our consents and under The National Policy Statement For Fresh Water (that doesn’t state we have to build dams contrary to what dam supporters keep telling me). The corners being cut in dam construction by flooding a huge quantity of mulched wood and stumps left in situ will be challenging to mitigate the effects of. It is highly likely that the running costs will blow out accordingly as we try and mitigate these effects – further adding to the burden on water users.
Of course, my concerns are only based on a few vocal nay-sayers and I should only be taking the advice of staff and their experts.
No doubt time will tell who are the heroes and who was the voice of reason. Whether dam advocates will be labelled as saviours of the district or whether the nay-sayers will be able to say “I told you so.” But one thing is for sure, if this dam doesn’t deliver as promised, it won’t be the wealthy that will be left homeless.