The HB Regional Council is plowing ahead with its $600 million dam scheme, even as more voices join those who have been trying to slow down the Council’s process in the interest of environmental and financial prudence. See, for example, businessman Colin Crombie’s recent appeal in Hawke’s Bay Today, on behalf of Friends of the Tukituki, for a ‘time out’ in the process.

Seeking the same kind of pause — so this huge potential project can be thoroughly vetted here in Hawke’s Bay by the people who will need to live with its consequences — are HB Fish & Game and the region’s iwi voice, Ngati Kahungunu. Both have asked the Regional Council to postpone its plan to seek, in only two weeks, a ‘call-in’ of the project and its associated Tukituki management plan.

Both Fish & Game and Ngati Kahungunu have dealt quietly with the HBRC regarding their requests for a ‘time out’.

But the time for quiet persuasion is running out.

So others of us have acted more forcefully.

In the past week, Transparent Hawke’s Bay (of which I am a member), with the assistance of Wellington law firm Chen Palmer, have filed the following two actions:

First, we have asked the Auditor-General to investigate what we regard as a failure on the part of the HBRC to adequately consult, as required by the Lcal Government Act, on its 2012-22 Long Term Plan, which is the only ‘authority’ on which HBRC may commit funds to this project — $80 million is signaled, although as we argue, this figure grossly understates the financial implications and ratepayer risks of the scheme.

Second, we have submitted a brief to Minister for the Environment arguing that a ‘call-in’ of this project absent genuine consultation would be premature and imprudent at best, and indeed is legally challengeable.

These actions, or any that follow, are not steps Transparent Hawke’s Bay (THB) has taken lightly. But as THB chair Pauline Elliott said in announcing our appeal to the Auditor-General:

“Cost estimates for the dam itself increased by $60m after public submissions closed, and no mention was made of even greater on-farm costs; the strongly indicated intention of the Regional Council to retain 51% equity in ownership is now fudged, and perhaps impossible to secure; other cost factors, such as stricter environmental mitigation measures, and dependencies have not been disclosed.”

This Wednesday, April 24th, the Regional Council has given THB ten minutes at the outset of its monthly Council meeting (beginning at 9am) to present ourselves and our actions. Realising this is late notice, I hope you can attend in support. If you cannot, please email your support to Pauline —  — and she will note it on Wednesday.

Pulling together and advancing our case for a ‘time out’ requires huge effort on the part of a very committed volunteer team. Their efforts aside, presenting our case effectively requires capable legal counsel, and — putting it as delicately as I can — that means money, even though our legal team is delivering ‘above and beyond’.

For its part, HBRC/HBRIC has budgeted roughly $6 million of your ratepayer dollars to advance planning and consenting for this scheme in 2013-14.

You can be assured that we skeptics will see none of that money (earlier on, we were declined $10,000 to secure independent peer review of key studies)!

Bottom line: we need your help with contributions.

If you would like to support our efforts to ensure an informed review of the dam project, please send your contribution to:

Transparent Hawke’s Bay
PO Box 821

Or you can deposit directly to the Transparent Hawke’s Bay bank account at ASB Napier:  12-3144-0245035-00

Thanks for your support.

Tom Belford

P.S. I’m told that the Wednesday HBRC meeting will be the first to be webcast!! As you know, this was originally a BayBuzz proposal, which many of you supported with submissions. It won’t be a live webcast, but it will be packaged and archived for online viewing within a day or so (recognising that ANZAC Day follows). Here’s the address where it will eventually appear:

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  1. Exactly what I pointed out in my submission to the HBRC 10 year plan. My donation is on the way.

  2. Tom, a point worth noting. Waitangi Ass. Robert Consedine here in H.B for another 2 day workshop re understanding The Treaty O Waitangi. With a focus in legislation concerning a subject still not taught well at school. As when you attended the 2 day workshop, all 22 recipients made the same comments, “Am please I attended, “I am disappointed the subject was not taught when I was at school”.

    Caring better for our environment is dependent on our leadership, at lest aware of our Treaty. Yet most aspiring politicians are insulted to be invited to attend a workshop or even give the subject consideration. Surely essential for elected representatives in a position of leadership — as Fenton Wilson Chair HBRC — to make an effort?

    Why Tom,”what is their problem” – the whole province benefits, as you are aware.

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