My concerns over the proposed Waimea Dam continue to grow. Not helped by the two days of “deliberations” following the recent public consultation. We were asked to submit any questions that we had prior to deliberations where a panel of “objective technical and legal experts” would answer them. Unfortunately, although I submitted a list of questions (provoked from the dam submissions) prior to the deliberations most of them remain unanswered as they did not fit within the scope of each allotted expert so I was unable to ask them.
Following the question and answer sessions council moved to pass the motion on the agenda. Normally in the case of a deliberation councillors would take each of the points on the consultation and debate the results of the submissions. Only some councillors seem to remember this kind of deliberation taking place (oddly, they seem to be aligned with those who in general support the dam). Other councillors raised concerns over the process.
I have serious concerns about a board controlled by Waimea Irrigators on a Council Controlled Organisation working on a project the rate-payers are underwriting the lion share of. This despite when it was first raised that councillors would not be on the board I questioned the term sheet and was told it was not actually in the terms sheet that councillors were excluded from the board – contrary to the information released by the irrigators in their Statement Of Proposal.
I also questioned at that time the ability of WIL shareholders to be on the dam company board because they would share the same perceived conflicts that any council members might. I was given the assurance that this issue would be addressed. In the last full council meeting 22.02.18 I find out that it was not addressed and that we fully expect WIL shareholders to be on the board of the dam company.
This poses a problem because in the construction phase it is in the irrigators best interest to have a low quote with lots of overruns. A low quote (or on budget quote) ensures the project proceeds while cost overruns are not a concern for a partner with a capped liability.
An irrigator biased board poses a problem going ahead because irrigators will be controlling the release of the water to suit their best interests leaving the residential supply at higher risk during periods of extreme drought.
Of course, WIL board members are vastly more experienced than councillors some of them have prior experience with large companies such as the recently bankrupt Solid Energy.
I have other concerns which on their own may seem minor, but taken as a collective suggest that this project has a lot in common with people who in the past have been sold a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.
For instance, despite repeatedly asking about sedimentation infill rates I am still informed that in 100 years we expect the volume of infill to be 300,000 cubic meters. This indicates that a huge man-made reservoir is going to have zero impact in the levels of erosion upstream of the dam. They assert that there is currently 3000 cubic meters of sedimentation flowing down the river historically, this figure multiplied by 100 years gives the figure quoted of 300,000 cubic meters. Obviously, I am not a qualified engineer nor a geologist so I am unable to dispute the logic used here.
There is a contingency figure of $143,000 built into the project office estimate for a total of $2.2 million. When I queried the interim project manager why there was such a high contingency figure on the project office I was informed that it was for the purchase of telecommunication equipment because it is cheaper than airfares. This is slightly concerning that a $143k contingency be built in to the office management budget in case the purchase of telecommunication equipment spend overruns. Remembering that they have in excess of a $2million dollar budget for running an office for three years without it. To put it in further context the budget for land and access is a mere $2.9m and other sunk costs (could be anything) climb another $1.3m.
On a similar note council also signed off on overseas travel as approved by the project manager in his delegation authority. There is no specific budget limit allocated to this delegation.
Council also agreed to fully accept another $799k of sunk costs which no doubt includes the $12413.20 spent on a Dam Straight media campaign when it became apparent that submissions were coming in overwhelming against the dam proposal. Remembering that these growing sunk costs are increasing the over-all contributions of TDC to the dam over-and-above our share of the now $82.9m “core project Budget” as per the WIL PDS.
Other contracts quoted for engineering work to be done on behalf of council are coming in 15 to 100% over budget because of the huge amount of work in the district and the ability of the contractors to pick and choose the contracts that they accept. This is not an isolated local issue as Fletcher Construction can attest to. I suspect that cost over runs already experienced on the project combined with inflation and contractor’s ability to demand a higher price have eaten well into the “P95” contingency figure before any earthwork begins.
As someone who entered the Council supporting the concept of a dam I have been left drowning in concerns over the proposed Waimea Community Dam and the effect it is going to have on rates if it proceeds any further.
My attempt at the last council meeting to have the Mayor’s right to a casting vote removed because I have lost confidence in his ability to use it in a prudent manner was deferred for a future report. A cynic might suggest that the report will not come back to council for a vote until after the dam has been signed off.