Last week, charges continued to fly in Parliament regarding professional staff of both DOC and the Ministry of Primary Industries muzzled in their attempts to submit serious concerns about the HBRC’s proposed $600 million dam. Then the suppression issue shifted closer to home as the week closed.
It was alleged that consultants at GNS Science (Geological and Nuclear Science, a Crown Research Institute) were approached by HBRC to conduct further hydrological assessment of the Ruataniwha water system. They first balked at the assignment (questioning the accuracy of HBRC’s existing modeling work), were then pressured by the HBRC, and ultimately submitted their report with significant reservations and disclaimers.
At first, as reported by HB Today, HBRC resource manager Iain Maxwell denied any irregularity: “He said the council had no knowledge of any allegation by scientists raising concerns about the catchment proposal or ‘placement of pressure by council to that effect’.”
Subsequently, as the heat was turned up, HBRC issued this evasive statement:
“Hawkes Bay Regional Council has fielded a number of media enquiries seeking its response to allegations that have been made in Parliament about various matters pertaining to Tukituki Plan Change 6 and the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.
HBRC is an applicant in the current Board of Inquiry process considering these matters. The Board of Inquiry has been specifically set up to ensure that all the evidence is robustly and independently considered.
We will respond formally through the Board of Inquiry process once we have received the submitters’ evidence.”
Of course, the issue raised goes well beyond any examination of evidence actually submitted by HBRC; rather, the question is whether HBRC has in fact presented the final and full assessments of GNI to the Board of Inquiry. The BOI cannot evaluate what it doesn’t have.
And of course, any BOI review of the work being challenged will safely follow election day.
Despite this dodge — indeed, undermined by it — the credibility of HBRC, HBRIC and their ‘case’ for the dam diminishes day by day.
But having let the meltdown get this far, our incumbent regional councillors can now only pray that more cats don’t escape from the bag before all ballots are cast.
What a way to build public confidence in a $600 million investment!