What follows is my submission for the Tukituki Choices ‘consultation’.

Tukituki Choices is a breathtakingly deficient consultation document. As one Regional Councillor, a staunch supporter of the Council’s Tukituki plans, succinctly put it, Tukituki Choices is “thinly disguised propaganda” that “treats the reader as an idiot”.

Very significant issues of science, and assumptions and conclusions associated with that science, remain in dispute. These are considered serious enough that HBRC has agreed to a ‘science caucusing’ on those issues.

However, in the meantime, HBRC has elected to promote its view of the issues in the Tukituki Choices document, significantly biasing the presentation, if not in fact misrepresenting or not reporting key matters, such as the extent of environmental protection actually provided in differing scenarios, the extent of mitigation measures required to deal effectively with ecological concerns, the cost of such measures, and therefore the underlying economics of the project. Tukituki Choices is biased, inaccurate on key points, silent about the significance of key issues still under review, and therefore misleading.

In short, nothing in Tukituki Choices reflects the advice or concerns of the environmental leaders who served almost two years on the Regional Council’s so-called “stakeholders” group. That’s why those individuals, myself included, termed Tukituki Choices “fatally flawed”.

As opposed to the deficient scenarios presented in Tukituki Choices, many environmentalists would consider an ‘Option 5’ for managing the Tukituki catchment that combined water storage with meaningful advancement and regulation of land use practices to protect high standards of water quality.

This Option would posit both water storage and strong environmental protection and enhancement, instead of relegating environmental values to an inferior status well below what the public has signaled it wants for Hawke’s Bay.

Such an Option would use better-grounded land use assumptions to more accurately predict increased nutrient loading caused by intensified farming in the catchment, and the environmental impact of that loading. Then the Option would spell out the mitigation measures that the Regional Council would require by regulation to reduce that impact, such that further degradation of water quality does not occur.

The Regional Council has yet to propose such an Option and has signaled no intention to do so.

At the same time, in both Tukituki Choices and the media, the Council has sought to marginalise environmental concerns before the general public by associating environmental objectives with dire economic consequences, in contrast to the economic nirvana that would supposedly be delivered by the Council-preferred storage option.

The assumptions and analysis supporting the Council’s economic projections have barely seen the light of day … and certainly have not been tested by rigorous review by independent parties. Indeed, as this information has been dribbled out lately by HBRC, many of the underlying assumptions have been greeted with derision by practitioners familiar with farming practices and prospects in Central Hawke’s Bay.

And so now we are left with a growing number of questions about the validity of the Council’s vaunted dam feasibility exercise, key aspects of which feed the Tuktuki plan change scenarios as well.

But the Council doesn’t wish to hear any of this. It says simply, ‘take us on’ in the formal consenting process. The Council of course realizes that this course is beyond the stamina and resources of most members of the concerned public, who will be effectively disenfranchised.

However, organised environmentalists will indeed challenge formally, if not presented with the kind of genuine win/win ‘Option 5’ for the catchment that was originally promised. Anything less will allow water quality in the Tukituki catchment to continue to deteriorate, and environmentalists will fight that outcome with legal action if necessary.

In conclusion, I request these actions:

  1. HBRC preparation and public presentation of an ‘Option 5’ as described above.
  2. Deferral of any Council decisions to proceed with consent preparation for either the dam or the Tukituki plan change until that Option has been publicly vetted.
  3. Ultimately, insofar as water storage itself is concerned, a land and water management scheme of such huge magnitude in terms of cost and impact, with profound ramifications for the region’s preferred future environmental and economic path, as well as for future land and water ownership, should be presented in a public referendum before any final decision is made.

My concerns with the Council’s Tukituki plans are presented in greater detail in the two addenda that follow, which I wish to submit as well in support of my position.

Addendum #1 — Presentation to EIT Tukituki Water Forum, September 18th.

Addendum #2 — BayBuzz article, Hawke’s Bay’s Greatest Gamble Ever

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