Ruataniwha consent payments, a years-long simmering issue

Trying to take a simmering issue off the stove, HB Regional Council chief executive Dr Nic Peet has awarded $255,362.45 in relief from water charges to Water Holdings Hawkes Bay Limited (WHHB).

These charges relate to WHHB’s consents in connection with the proposal to build the Ruataniwha Dam in Central Hawke’s Bay.

CHB farmers Tim Gilbertson and Hugh Ritchie are the most visible of WHHB shareholders. They have sought to avoid any payment because the consents have been unused. Of course, they knew the consents were unusable the day they purchased them. They’ve taken a chance they might someday turn to gold. But for remissions purposes, have claimed they are valueless.

Thus, of the original charges of $383,043.68 (sitting unpaid over the past three years while HBRC gnashed its teeth), WHHB will only pay $127,681.23.

Such a deal! I wish I had the same protection from HBRC, from anyone, for my bad investments! How about you?

HBRC seems to be in an outrageously generous mood, given it is signaling double digit rate increases for ‘average’ ratepayers. If you’re looking for rates relief or fee remissions, you better get in line quickly … $255k just went out the door.

At a HBRC meeting today, Regional Councillors wrung their hands over a proposal (which they ultimately approved) to come up with $24,500 for bus service to get some kids to school. 

Meanwhile they’ve ducked their heads while the chief executive gave ten times that amount to a group of special interest pleaders.

Bad timing. Bad signal. Bad decision.

And the opening round in WHHB’s fresh campaign to revive the Ruataniwha Dam.


Join the Conversation


  1. I have no brief for the two consent holders here, but what cost to the HBRC have been incurred beyond the $127,681.23 to be charged? If it is none, then it would be getting paid for, well, doing nothing. Where’s the morality in that, Tom? Of course, these people have a very different political position on this issue – that is the would-be Ruataniwha dam – to you, but that’s got nothing to do with it. If yes, there were extra cost involved, then they should pay. One assumes that there are none, or the council wouldn’t have made the decision it has.

    1. That is a big assumption Ewan McGregor! We all pay rates for regional costs that don’t always benefit us personally or directly but that is no excuse for not paying our rates. These landowners knew the rates they were expected to pay when they purchased the consents. They just used their power and privilege to bully the Council and it worked.

  2. Double standards! No wonder so many people have little faith in our Councils to do the right and fair thing.

  3. Tim Gilbertson ought to have initiated his Water Holdings plan with his eyes open, having been one of the strongest proponents of the failed Ruataniwha scheme. But his economic sense is woeful. The RWSS scheme failed not only because of the environmental decision, but because the economics could never work. The fundamental questions regarding any water storage scheme are . . who benefits, and who pays. Tim and his mates have always wanted someone else to pay.

  4. Marilyn, the comparison to rates is not valid. The Council does things with its rates income. My question, the point of my posting is; ‘what has the Council done to justify the charging of the consent fee over what it is now charging? If the answer is ‘nothing’, then what’s the moral justification of insisting on payment. The pros & cons of the dam are irrelevant here.

    1. Ewan I understood from attending a HBRC hearing a couple of years ago where this issue was debated that there are costs involved to cover ongoing water monitoring and all consent holders knew this at the time, including WHHB.

    2. Ewan: It’s quite simple: the consents had a limited life; to extend them costs extra. Perfectly normal and reasonable. But instead of letting them lapse, as any responsible person might given the judgements against the scheme, the holders have not only extended them but connived an arrangement to do so at no cost! Leaving the whole RWSS hanging like a cloud over us all. But this rort is no new thing; I recall similar happening back in your time…. and I note the beneficiaries of that “unfortunate” over-allocation remain close to the action.

  5. When are these corrupt acts going to cease?? The HB Regional Council CE is just as dirty as the Water Holdings HB Limited! I don’t know how any of them can sleep comfortable at night or even face us the rate-paying public………POKOKOHUA ma!

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