Down in South Canterbury, the Hunter Downs Irrigation Scheme is proceeding.

According to NZ Farmers Weekly (30 Sep 2013), this scheme would service 200 to 300 landowners, with an irrigation area of 60,000 hectares. It will provide an annual volume of 251 million cubic metres of water. Its proponents say it will create $117 million in economic benefit to the region, onfarm and beyond. One can presume the proponents are not low-balling the estimated benefit!

Compare that to HBRC’s grand — but significantly smaller — scheme for Central Hawke’s Bay.

The Ruataniwha Scheme, says the HBRC in its April propaganda mailing to all ratepayers, will service only around 25,000 hectares* and have available at peak less than 90 million cubic metres of water, yet supposedly generate an annual $235 million increase in regional GNP.

That’s twice the economic benefit of the Canterbury scheme from far less water and irrigated area.

Don’t you find that a bit odd? Maybe CHB has fabulously fertile soil and growing conditions, plus super-human farmers. I think not!!

No, that’s just what happens when a Council like HBRC goes into sales mode for its pet project, without subjecting its blue sky economic projections to independent scrutiny.

Had I the time, I could publish an “Isn’t it odd?” question every day for the rest of the year about this project. However, I had thought it was the job of HBRIC’s business-wise and increasingly well-paid private sector Board directors to ask such questions; not the job of a lowly volunteer blogger.

And by the way, the Board of Inquiry about to review the CHB scheme recently denied our funding request from Transparent Hawke’s Bay (for $30,000) to pay for an independent farm economist to review HBRC/HBRIC’s grandiose economic benefit claims. “What me worry?” seems to be the attitude of the BOI when it comes to the economic realities of this scheme.

Clearly, they have no doubt — just like their colleagues at DOC and MPI — what Government wants and expects the answer to be on this project.

Tom Belford

*Of course that’s a floating number; occasionally, to suit the occasion, HBRC puts it as high as 35-40,000 hectares, but my point remains.

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3 Comments

  1. Are you able to advise who is paying for this scheme in Canterbury, I and a hell of a lot of others are quite anxious about the funding of this HBRC Dam, as huge numbers of HOME OWNERS!! reach retirement, and sole dependence on National Super for survival, I personally know of many who own their own homes, and on National Super will not be able to afford to live in their homes, and if the HBRC are going to help themselves to peoples bank accounts and minimum savings, to fund a massive amount of money to prop up so few.
    I can see this becoming something that has the possibilities of creating hardship to many, if HOME OWNERS are to be a major funding contributor.

    Regards.
    William Simpson.

  2. The disturbing thing about this is the people who (appear) to be playing loose and fast with what should be contestable analysis of the project have access to public money. This process and the people involved need to be completely separate. The project viability studies should not be done by anyone who has even the remotest connection with the financiers when public money is involved. They have broken one of the primary rules of governance by allowing those who may benefit being associated with those making decisions on its construction.
    The even more disturbing aspect is that this confounded dam could be a viable proposition but the promoters have made such a dogs’ breakfast of it we may never know.

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