Organisational outcomes are driven by organisational culture. When the culture turns sour, so do the outcomes. And to understand the culture, one needs to observe over time and connect the dots.

Take the present situation with the Ruataniwha dam.

1. First come murmurs of HBRC staff disaffection, amplified by staff departures.

2. Then a sham — as judged by the environmental community — public consultation and ‘stakeholder’ process around the proposal and the overall plan for managing the Tukituki catchment.

3. Then complaints of uncooperative/dissenting consultants being bullied.

4. Then setbacks for HBRC/HBRIC as the BOI and the High Court endorse a tougher environmental approach.

5. And in that process, the Board of Inquiry publicly chides HBRC’s outside experts for changing their advice from one forum to the next on how to manage nutrient problems (in the case of the Tukituki, reversing positions they had taken elsewhere).

6. Then just weeks ago, a rebuke to the Regional Council from the Environment Court, which in ruling against the HBRC regarding its soft stance on protecting aquifer water, said:

“…it is a function of every regional council to control the use of land to maintain and enhance the quality of water in water bodies – ie including water in aquifers, and to control the discharges of contaminants into water (again, including water in aquifers). This function is not an option – it is something a regional council is required to do, whether it be difficult or easy.”

And finishing off with: “To not aspire to and attempt to at least maintain the quality of water abdicates the functions of a regional council …”

7. Then, during a recent public meeting, a complaint by a HBRC job applicant that he had been rejected explicitly because of his views on the dam.

8. Then, the performance by HBRIC’s chairman Andy Pearce, at last week’s Regional Council meeting, who in effect dared HBRC to enforce the land use consents that will be required by the new Board of Inquiry-established rules to control excessive nutrient leaching into the Tukituki catchment, while claiming — on the other hand — that farmers who purchased water from the dam would be exempt from such requirements.

His implied sales message to CHB farmers: To escape the environmental rules, buy dam water. In short, your water user agreement is a a license to pollute. Wink!

Or, put as a threat to dam-resistant CHB farmers: Buy dam water, or suffer the environmental rules.

9. And finally, at the same Regional Council meeting, HBRIC was given carte blanche, by 5-4 vote (need I list the votes?) to borrow roughly $10 million dollars, to pay its way, including its continued advocacy of the dam (and any other investment), without any further approval from your elected Regional Council. What would be the collateral for such borrowing? HBRIC’s only asset: shares of Napier Port.

[Video coverage of the HBRC meeting discussion of these two items is here and here.]

That’s what this $600 million investment — $300m to build the dam and its delivery system, $300m in on-farm infrastructure to use the water (on top of their millions in water purchase costs) — has come down to.

Produced by a souring organisational culture that has attempted — pretty successfully — to stifle all challenge.

How does it all smell to you?

Is this the deal you want for Hawke’s Bay?

If not, don’t just hold your nose … speak out!

Tom Belford

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  1. Hi Tom

    Here is the link to the RWSS Public Information Evening if you want to post it for your readers. The speakers’ efforts were notable and an engaged, interested crowd brought great questions to the floor for discussion. A follow up public meeting has been agreed to, time to be advised.


  2. The proposal is not passing the sniff test for me.

    The community does need to protect production and water is a critical component yet the problems and voices of concern being ignored are not indicators of a healthy organisation in action.

    This plan appears to need radical rethink with greater acknowledgement and attention to the environmental issues raised. Efficient production remains important but not at any cost and particularly not by ignoring long term environmental issues.

  3. With all the behind the scenes manoeuvreing by elected officials determined to push this dam proposal through it is very hard to find an uncorrupted person to oppose. Tom, will you please stand as mayor to get us out of this quandary!!

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