The US Government has what’s known as “The Black Budget” a top-secret allocation, estimated at $52.6 billion in 2013, that funds the country’s covert action, surveillance and counterintelligence programmes across more than a dozen agencies.

Here in Hawke’s Bay, we too have a “Black Budget” – the closely guarded amount to be spent by HBRIC, the Regional Council’s holding company, to develop and market the CHB dam project.

On Wednesday, the Council will be debating – in public-excluded session, as matters now stand – a “re-forecasting” of this budget.

One need not be a brain surgeon to surmise that a “re-forecast” involves an additional spend.

At its last public accounting of the dam development spend, presented at the 30 July Council meeting, HBRIC reported that $11.5 million in capital expenditure and $529,362 in operating expenditure had occurred in the year through June 2014. This so-called “Phase 2” spending is in addition to $3.5 million spent in “Phase 1”. All in, by my calculations, about $15.5 million to date. About $2.7 million has been underwritten by the Ministry for Primary Industries, with some additional contribution by institutional investors (now departed).

And now a “re-forecast” on Wednesday – to be decided in secret against the backdrop of an ever changing “financial close” date by which a yes/no decision on the dam is projected to be made … now suggested as 31 March by HBRIC.

The current legal appeals regarding the Board of Inquiry’s (BOI) plan for the Tukituki will not be heard until November, at the most optimistic scheduling, with those matters not resolved fully probably until next year. Further uncertainty is created by HBRIC’s application to take all 15 million cubic metres of water made available from the Ruataniwha aquifer in the BOI’s decision. A number of growers have indicated they will challenge that proposal, which bears on who might have access to aquifer water instead of dam water.

So one might reasonably worry that the “re-forecast” period required to be funded could well extend beyond the new projected March close date.

When is enough, enough? How much is required?

The public has every right to know. Absolutely nothing about this “re-forecast” deserves to be considered in secret.

And therefore an attempt will be made to conduct this debate in public session on Wednesday.

If that fails, as past history suggests it will, then I urge you to approach the councillors of your choice on Thursday with this simple question: “Did you vote yesterday to allocate additional funding to progress the Ruataniwha water storage scheme?”

I will be happy to report in BayBuzz the response you get.

Tom Belford

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  1. When Fenton and his fellow travelers falter and stumble you will see something very unpleasant. You will want to turn away. All the people they have offended by their contempt for the democratic process and open government will go for the throat. They have so outraged the sense of fair play of many ratepayers and others retribution will be unpleasant to say the least. They have brought local government and public service into disrepute and one day they will answer for it.

  2. As you know Tom, the timing of “financial close” is dependent on a number of conditions being met by HBRIC. It is entirely possible that those conditions will never be met. At what stage do you think that the majority of Regional Councillors will vote to “pull the the pin” or will Andrew Newman’s dream continue to provide him with an excellent income until he succeeds in finding employment elsewhere? Each year of delay will increase the cost of the project until even the five “muppets” must realise it is a financial disaster.

  3. Well (sigh), what ever happened to wisdom and common sense and a sense of real fiduciary duty!

    Are these representatives performing within the law?

    I think not!

  4. I am puzzled about how the 15 million cu.m. aquifer water will be used. Is there any chance that it could be used as a sweetener to get water use agreements signed?

  5. What the hell is with all the secrecy, again? Don’t give National your vote on 20 September, that way the stronghold directive from central government will be well and truly weakened.

  6. Well, Fenton and his cohorts seem to be chasing a lost cause, a bit like Fenton in this youtube clip:
    Just imagine the deer are analogous to “The Dam”. By the way, what ever became of Christine Scott’s complaint about Tom Belford? I must have missed the outcome of that red herring thrown into the proceedings. I await the outcome of Wednesday’s secret Council meeting.

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