This weekend’s HB Today puts a spotlight on one of the lesser-known provisions of the Water User Agreement (WUA) governing any purchases of stored water from the proposed Ruataniwha Dam.
The provision – which the WUA euphemistically calls a “No Objection” covenant – is nothing short of a ‘gag rule’. It forbids anyone signing up for water from challenging or objecting, as they otherwise could under the Resource Management Act, to any future changes or extensions HBRIC seeks to its overall consents to operate the dam.
Moreover, the water user is also forbidden from abetting, in any way, any other party who would object to such HBRIC proposals.
In other words, if the scheme turns to custard – and who would better know that than existing water users – the existing water users’ lips are sealed so long as their WUA is in effect (i.e, for 35 years).
That’s outrageous, precluding those in the know from protecting their interests, or supporting anyone who might care enough to act on their behalf.
HBRIC’s chief executive Andrew Newman simply replies (as quoted by HB Today): “The Water User Agreement is a substantial document and we have encouraged farmers to seek independent professional advice before signing it.”
In short, ‘buyer beware’.
However, a farmer uncomfortable with the gag rule has no real choice … the terms of the WUA are not negotiable on a clause-by-clause basis. It’s ‘take it or leave it’ if you want water from HBRIC.
Or in other words …
‘Sign up and shut up!’
P.S. Here’s the exact provision from the Water User Agreement:
20. No Objection
The Water User agrees not to lodge any objection under the Resource Management Act 1991 to any consent application undertaken by or on behalf of HBRIC Ltd in respect of any amendment to or extension or re-granting of all or any of the RWS Consents.
Without limiting the generality of paragraph 20.1, the Water User will not, and shall ensure
that no persons under its control, either directly or indirectly:
(a) object to, oppose or impede any application made by HBRIC Ltd for the grant,
renewal, variation or continuation of the RWS Consents or any consent, authority or permit, or appeal any current or future consent, authority or permit for any operations and activities to be undertaken by HBRIC Ltd; and/or
(b) fund, facilitate, assist or promote any other person, entity or group to take any action
that would be in breach of this paragraph 20.2 if done by the Water User.