After the announcement that the Waimea Community Dam has run millions, and millions, over budget before a digger has even put a bucket in the ground Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne has gone into over drive with the doom and gloom press releases.
As quoted by Cherie Sivignon in the Nelson Mail the Mayor says:
“We’ll be slipping into Third World provisions [in a severe drought],” said Tasman district mayor Richard Kempthorne. “I think, the community doesn’t realise that’s what we have ahead of us without the dam.”
Kempthorne said he expected to be accused of scaremongering but the rules for tougher rationing in dry spells were in place under the no-dam provisions in the Tasman Resource Management Plan (TRMP). The rationing and related restrictions would affect rural and urban water users in the Richmond, Hope, Mapua, Brightwater and Redwood Valley areas including businesses and industry.
Of course, what he doesn’t mention is that if the dam project goes ahead as currently planned, there will likely be no inhabited streets of Brightwater. Already, they have proven that they have no idea what the cost of the dam would be, much less that they have any idea of the potential for overruns. Overruns that the ratepayers of this district are solely responsible for. There is every potential that the proposed $100 million-dollar dam could overrun by another $100 million like the Clyde dam. I suspect that by the time that the extra $30 million plus the potential extra $100 million is added to the rate bill of the residents of Tasman there will be a lot of cheap housing for sale as ratepayers file for bankruptcy.
It is rather ironic that when I argued that new residential builds should be required to put in water tanks like their rural neighbours it was argued that it would be too expensive. On the other hand, we can put up water rates by 1000% to pay for a dam and that is acceptable.
Staff have also been roped in to sell the dam at any expense.
“In the worst-case scenario, when there are cease-take directions, Tasman will face its own ‘Cape Town’ situation and people will collect water from tankers,” Bush-King said.
In the worst-case scenario with the dam going ahead we will face Cape Town like situations where a significant number of people will be living in cardboard boxes and shantytowns as they are forced off the land they currently own – if we are going to talk about “worst-case scenarios.”
Kempthorne agreed such a situation would not be palatable to ratepayers.
“That is why I have taken so seriously trying to bring in the Waimea Community Dam – because of the impacts without it.”
The council had a responsibility to provide a secure urban water supply and would have to look at other options if the dam did not proceed.
However, those other options were “considerably more expensive”, Kempthorne said.
I am pleased he explained why he has pushed this dam through with so many casting votes and spent so much money driving this project against the wishes of more than 80% of the consultation respondents because I had been wondering what his motives were.
However, he does again resort to gross exaggeration by stating that those other options were “considerably more expensive.”
Considerably more expensive than what? A $100 million-dollar dam plus full liability for all overruns? I don’t think so. He has conveniently forgotten to upgrade his figures unless Engineering manager Richard Kirby is going to revise the figures of the alternatives again to bring them back inline with the Mayor’s comments.
Last time Kirby revisited the “plan B” options they were found to be in need of some serious rescoping which increased their price by up to four times the previous budgets. When asked to apply the same scrutiny to the Waimea Community Dam he repeatedly came with the same lowball figures used to generate a P95 in 2015. It was a complete surprise when the quote missed the budget by almost $30 million dollars.
Even the recently inflated costs of a storage pond capable of supplying urban water needs for the immediate future is nowhere near the figures now being talked about for the Waimea Dam. While the initial potential plan B pond will not meet the 100-year projections, that they claimed to be able to meet with the dam, it will avert “Cape Town” like conditions in the near future.
Of course there are many options to avert urban residents begging on the streets for a cup of water including further reductions of the irrigation permits to bring allocation back inline with the new water availability requirements. Another might be to raise the price of water as restrictions are applied to ensure water is not wasted. Fixing leaks in the network is an option that many people are calling for, as are water tanks for urban users.
No solutions are going to be without cost, however, one thing is certain, the extra three million dollars that the Mayor used his casting vote to spend on the Waimea dam this term would have been better spent on a project that was affordable. Not to mention the thousands of dollars a day still being spent on the Waimea Community Dam project at the Mayor’s direction.