This Council is always looking for ways to save. We have found that we can stockpile the truth by only using it sparingly.
For instance, in the agenda for Tuesday 28th August 2018 the council staff inform me:
Funding and Finance – Waimea Community Dam
The Nature of Public Investments
18.10 Concerns have been raised in the past about the Council’s investment in the proposed Waimea Dam being a subsidy to irrigators. What is proposed is not that but is an increased Council contribution to get a project over the line. The Council should be motivated to do that (within limits) because
18.11 Public capital investment in government-owned assets creates the opportunity for private investment and productivity – that is why councils and central governments do it. The effect of public capital investment on economic growth is hotly debated. While analysts debate the magnitude, the evidence is that there is a statistically significant positive relationship between infrastructure investment and economic performance.
18.12 In the case of this project the investment opportunities are for the irrigators and others to take. Some may argue that there is an element of exclusivity here in that ‘affiliation’ and a water supply agreement is required to gain access to the benefits. In other words, access is available for a fee.
18.13 Other public investments in assets such as roads, airports, ports, transit systems, and even community facilities create investment opportunities for and ‘subsidise’ someone. Our consenting and regulatory work enables developers and others to profit also. While some may be genuine public good and access is ‘free’ there are many other examples where a fee is needed
It is such a relief to know that this dam funding model is not a subsidy to irrigators – I was obviously mistaken when I highlighted the ways that this project has gone from an extractor/user pays model to a huge subsidy of irrigators.
It turns out that the urban water user and general ratepayer (staff use the term “Council”) is making an increased contribution to get the project over the line. This increased contribution reduces the amount that the irrigators are paying for their shares, and increases the cost of our shares as the percentage of water allocation remains the same. Which is obviously a different model to the irrigators getting a subsidy.
Here was I thinking that a subsidy is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of simple maths. Either you are paying the same rate as everyone else for your shares, or you are getting discounted shares at someone else’s expense (a subsidy by any other name).
It is interesting to note also that other public investments in assets “subsidise” someone. It appears if you use “air quotes” when talking about something, like a subsidy for instance, it is somehow not an actual subsidy but instead it is a “subsidy.” This clarification is important because once upon a time I would have said staff are lying but now I understand that they are just “lying” (which is not telling real lies, just the other kind of lies).
“Lying” appears to be a common trait amongst those ardent supporters of the dam. We have seen that irrigators are often found to be “lying,” such as Juliane Raine who also claimed there was not a subsidy of irrigators, and Murray King was picked up by Newsroom reporters as using truth in an economical fashion
King bristles at suggestions the extra irrigation might pollute the very waterways it’s trying to save. “This area is already heavily irrigated. And when people say that it’s going to lead to more nitrates and things it’s just not true.” (However, he adds the disingenuous line that “farmers are not in the business of wasting resources”, which, if true, would mean councils wouldn’t have to impose rules to fence off waterways or limit farm runoff.)
Another points-scoring argument comes from Waimea Irrigators’ King: “The more you delay the project, the more it costs.” But then he adds that delaying have often been “instigated by the naysayers”, when it appears the project’s biggest hurdle has been funding.
However, it is not just irrigators that stoop to using “lies” to get their point across with more conviction. Independent CWS Advisory Group (who are independently ardent advocates of the dam) representative Morgan Williams has offered to sell his reputation down the toilet for free (likely a candidate for a Tui advert I suspect). I am sure most Tasman residents heard the radio adverts and received a glossy flier in their letterbox paid for by …. (good point, who is funding Mr independent Williams and friends?).
He claims that without a dam there will be serious water cuts, and the Waimea River will get sicker. Well
The dam is the only option, using natural gravel “pipes” to feed the land and fill our urban water supply. Note the use of air quotes around “pipes” because they are not real pipes – in
The “Who Pays?
There are many more economies of truth in the flier such as alternatives that won’t work, the dam is the most affordable option, the project has region wide benefit, etc etc. But I will highlight just one more.
That the Full Council
- receives the Proposed Waimea Community Dam – Funding and Governance Options report RCN14-12-01; and
- agrees not to include either option 1 or option 2 of the funding proposals from the Funding and Governance Statement of Proposal consulted on in October/November 2014 in the Long Term Plan 2015-2025; and
- Funding and Governance Statement of Proposal consulted on in October/November 2014 in the Long Term Plan 2015-2025; and
- requests that staff include $25 million in the Long Term Plan 2015-2025 Consultation Document for a water augmentation scheme being Council’s share of the environmental flows and provision for the current and future urban water needs for the Waimea basin; and
- notes that a commitment to funding a water augmentation scheme in the Long Term Plan 2015-2025 will be conditional on project scope (including an independent review of alternative options for urban supply encompassing ecologically sustainable water management practices, as agreed by Council) and external funding being agreed; and
- establishes a Council Controlled Organisation for the objectives set out in s59 of the Local Government Act 2002 and for the purpose of enabling external funding to be obtained, enabling the statutory purposes exercisable on behalf of the Council to be accessed, and delivering
cost effectivelocal infrastructure; and
- notes that further consultation and engagement with the public on a water augmentation scheme will be undertaken, including on a new proposal in the Long Term Plan 2015-2025 Consultation Document; and
- notes that the decision to proceed or not proceed with the Waimea Community Dam cannot be made until further information is available; and requests that staff report back on the work programme to implement these resolutions; and
- instructs staff to write back to all submitters with information on the Council’s decisions contained within this report and informing them on the next consultation steps; and
- requests that staff report back to Council on the proposed constitution and board make up of the Council Controlled Organisation; and
- requests that staff report back to Council on the opportunities available for the promotion of water conservation; and
- promotion of water conservation; and requests that staff report back to Council on options to attribute the $25M funding for urban water needs and environmental flows and to model these funding options on a number of sample properties; and
- advocates, in seeking any external funding for direct beneficiaries, a proportional user-pays model whereby contributions are relative to consumption or future consumption; and
- ensures that the Long Term Plan 2015-2025 Consultation Document
contains informationon alternative options to the proposed Waimea Community Dam.
Note that at this juncture we were to advocate a proportional user-pays model. Which is more or less what was presented to me when I was first asked to vote on proceeding with the dam. Then we had to NOT “subsidise” the irrigators into the current funding model to get the version we have now. A model that some describe as a wealth transfer of significant magnitude.
The TDC staff pie chart is slightly more reflective of the current funding model, although, it also neglects to shade the $35million ratepayer underwrite of the CIIL loan in at the very least a hatched colour.
Let us return for a moment to the “lies” told by dam advocates such as Mayor Kempthorne and senior council staff. This old, often repeated, chestnut is one of my
Environment and planning manager Dennis Bush-King
Surely this is a fact? Well, it is certainly a possible outcome … if the Council elects NOT to build the dam … AND there is a serious drought … Ohh and a change of council policy (something they neglect to mention – economical with the truth). The current agenda mentions on at least two occasions that council policy is:
4.16 For many years, Council has accepted that ‘doing nothing’ is not an option when it comes to addressing the water allocation and water quality issues in the Waimea River catchment.
4.35 As noted above, “doing nothing” is not an option when it comes to addressing water allocation and water quality issues in the Waimea River catchment or for securing the urban water supply against droughts and demands from growth.
And yet we proceed to make media statements that the worst-case scenario if the dam doesn’t go ahead is a do nothing option.
There are many other economical uses of the truth in the agenda, however, it is late and tomorrow will likely be a big day as we vote on the dam. As we are told that a $26 million change in the dam funding model is not worth consulting the ratepayers on (even if it means pushing out $20m worth of budgeted projects) I will just leave you with the question I have asked before:
If this dam is so good why are we constantly “lying” to sell it?