If you wanted one word to define the mind-set of the HB Regional Council, ‘arrogance’ would be a good place to start.

Last night, Campbell Live broadcast this report, focused on the Tukituki, on cyanobacteria, a poisonous algae that has killed dogs swimming in the Tukituki and poses a health threat to humans.

As it was reported, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council refused to discuss with Campbell Live this recent case of a dog dying after swimming in the Tukituki.

In fact, Campbell Live approached HBRC four times regarding the story, at one point simply asking why HBRC had no interest in even investigating the incident that was being reported. [Recall, there was a similar incident a few month’s previous.]

“We were surprised they didn’t even want to hear the details or whereabouts of this dog’s death,” reporter Rebecca Wright told me in a phone interview today.

Now, a decision not talk to a national TV broadcast like Campbell Live is not made by worker-bee communications staff at HBRC. It’s a decision made at the top.

And at the top of HBRC, arrogance reigns. They regard an informed public as a nuisance.

Why would they not want to talk on national television about cyanobacteria in the Tukituki River?

As BayBuzz reported here, cyanobacteria is a by-product of nitrate pollution in the water, and there will be a helluva lot more nitrates in the Tukituki if HBRC’s dam is built. Nitrates come from farm run-off, and the dam is intended to enable intensified farming in the catchment.

You might ask: Well, can’t they just manage that extra pollution somehow?

In theory, maybe. But the HBRC has made clear that it does not want to manage nitrates in the Tukituki so as to control algae. They claim they don’t need to.

Managing nitrates in the Tukituki would require significantly tougher mitigation measures (with associated costs), especially on the farms benefiting from the dam’s irrigation water. That makes the project still more expensive overall, which is not good news for the farmers already balking at buying into the scheme … or for project’s potential investors.

HBRC doesn’t want embarrassing news about the Tukituki these days.

But these are precisely the issues about the dam that we should be thrashing out here in our region, now that pertinent facts are becoming available, before rushing off for a Wellington blessing.

Are you ready yet to demand a ‘time out’ in this dam consenting process?!

Tom Belford

P.S. Watch the report. Our Hawke’s Bay DHB voices concerns about the situation, but ‘no comment’ from the HBRC.

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  1. Thank you for drawing this TV3 report on cyanobacterial toxicity to our attention. A serious issue, and obviously aggravated by the current drought, as well as the steady build-up of nitrates in the Hawke’s Bay waterways from farming intensification.

    Has anybody pointed out the similarity to the Lake Tutira situation? Nutrient run-off + low flows = deadly toxins.

    As you say, this issue should be publicly discussed by our elected councillors. They have a job to do, on our behalf, and when animals are dying, and humans at risk, from toxic water in our rivers and lakes, you can’t just refuse to comment.

    Perhaps the upcoming council election is the reason why sitting councillors only want to talk about all the great things they’ve been doing? Plenty of that sort of bumf appearing.

    At least the Regional Council Chairman, Fenton Wilson has started fronting these issues on the Council’s behalf. Good on him, but I haven’t noticed anything on the toxic water issue.

  2. What an outrage on so many levels! While drought conditions may exacerbate cyanobacteria, it has been present in our rivers before this.

    We have HBRC spending somewhere around $8m to date, plus a huge investment of human resource, to make a dam look an attractive proposition. A dam that is intended to encourage intensive farming, almost certainly dairy – which will absolutely increase nitrates into the Tuki Tuki river – and we can’t manage what we’ve got!

    We have a CEO who considers the dam project such an imperative that he has delegated 70% of his responsibilities as a CEO of the Regional Council, in order to focus his energies on progressing it, as Managing Director of the Council’s Investment Company.

    Maybe if the focus and resources of our Regional Council were to be concentrated more on core business, someone just might have been keen to front TV3 and talk about how this toxic algae is being managed.

  3. What a fabulous sight seeing so many families with picnics and beach umbrellas at the Tuki rivermouth this summer. Locals and visitors alike, everybody making the most of the swimming spot. I’m a local and have never seen it enjoyed like this before, I spoke to many out of towners and out of NZ’ers who say how lucky we are to have such an attractive spot to swim and it’s free.
    Well all true whilst the rivermouth is open, but once the sea pushes the shingle in and closes it it becomes stagnant and soupy.
    A number of locals rang the HBRC to tell them the rivermouth was blocked again and people were getting the usual symptoms of sore ear, buggy eyes and tummy upsets from swimming in it.
    I know when I rang I was told basically it’s a waste of time to keep clearing it as the sea will just close it again. But isn’t this their job. And they do make such a big job of it. HBRC do a decent job of it, open the rivermouth wide and yes if you have to do it time and time again then so be it. We have all put our hands in our pockets to pay our rates out here so please do your job so we and the many visitors to our slice of paradise can enjoy this beautiful spot.

  4. Interesting. Would also be interested to know if you are standing for regional council again this year.

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