Despite the fact that the case for the $600 million CHB dam is being cleaved faster than a ‘Walking Dead’ zombie, the scheme crawls on.
At the last Regional Council meeting, councillors Wilson, Scott, Hewitt, Dick and Pipe voted another $500,000 for the project. This time ostensively for ‘geotechnical’ work that needed to be completed so that — if the scheme were approved by June — construction on the project could begin in the Spring. The funds were authorised despite the fact that MPI refused to award HBRIC the money because, as MPI saw it, the expenditure was not related to meeting the project’s ‘conditions precedent’. The Auditor General has been asked to look into this funding decision.
As councillor Beaven has strongly objected, approving this money violated the compact HBRC has made with its ratepayers — NO money to be spent to enable construction unless and until HBRC determines that all ‘conditions precedent’ have been satisfied. These conditions include pre-selling the requisite amount of water (this process has stalled) and recruiting institutional investors (whose identities HB Today is now speculating on*) who are satisfied that their conditions have been met.
So, with external parties not yet ready to pony up cash, HBRIC must return to HBRC for more funds each time the ‘financial close’ goal posts are moved. Before long, the current ‘deadline’ for the close will shift once again — from 31 March to, say, 30 June. Then you can be sure that HBRIC will be back again to HBRC, hat in hand, for funds to meet its roughly $250,000 monthly base spend. And perhaps even more money, if additional ‘preparatory’ work is needed to keep alive HBRIC’s dream of pouring concrete in September.
All of this manoeuvring presumes that the High Court sanctions the land swap essential to the project, which is under challenge by Forest & Bird. But in reality, either way the Court decides, the ‘losing’ party can pursue further strategies, which guarantees that the scheme will not finally clear all legal hurdles for months to come … at best.
Yet the zombie dam crawls on.
Perhaps only Dilbert can help us understand what keeps it alive.
Not selling sufficient water contracts?
Was the strategy sound in the first place?
Did HBRIC (or HBRC) learn from any mistakes they might have made?
Get the picture?
*In this 9 February article, HB Today picks ACC, the NZ Super Fund, and “an Australian investor” as the likely investors.