$10,000 is what environmentalists have asked for.
But the HB Regional Council has refused to front the funds.
At issue is a genuinely independent review of the core environmental standards proposed for the $500 million CHB water storage scheme.
The Council has spent approximately $5 million to build its case for the scheme.
Environmentalists involved in monitoring the project have asked for the opportunity to have a team of independent, highly qualified technical specialists, selected by environmentalists, to review the science underlying the key environmental standards to be set for the scheme.
These standards relate to water quality in the Tukituki – what should be measured and how, and what pollution levels are acceptable – and to minimum low flows that must be set to protect ecological and recreational values in the river.
If these standards are set appropriately, and met, the water storage scheme can be the win/win initiative the Regional Council has proclaimed as its objective.
If they are not set appropriately, water quality in the river will deteriorate in the face of massively intensified farming in the CHB catchment.
But the HBRC has said to environmentalists: Get stuffed!
The review environmentalists want would cost about $10,000. It would be conducted within a process managed by the Council, and would not add material delay to the study process. Essentially, independent reviewers selected by our environmental team would assess the standards that have been tabled by HBRC and its multi-million dollar team of consultants, using the scientific data and analysis currently available, as well as relevant information from elsewhere in New Zealand.
Given the millions the Council has spent to prepare its case, I can’t really say that $10,000 will actually level the playing field, but it will at least permit a genuinely independent and high quality examination of the data … one that could be confidence-building for all parties.
Without that review, environmentalists cannot make an informed assessment of the dam proposal and related water allocation plans. And the public will not have the judgment it deserves from the region’s environmental leaders.
HB environmental groups do not have the funds to conduct the review. Perhaps readers of this post will speak up to the Council, or put their hands in their own pockets to help out. But the opportunity is passing as the Council rushes forward to sell the project.
Doesn’t a $500 million project with immense consequences to the health of the Tukituki deserve an independent environmental tick? This is what genuine consultation is all about … anything else is a farce.