Damning decision from district council

29 Aug 2018

Tasman

Earlier this week, the Tasman District Council decided not to support the development of Waimea Community Dam. This dam was going to supply water for urban households, support the area’s thriving horticulture, and ensure minimum river flows during dry periods, sustaining the aquatic life in the river. During floods, the dam would have helped prevent damage by reducing flood waters. Northington Partners, an independent investment bank and business advisory firm, forecast that not building the Waimea Dam could result in nearly $1 billion being lost from the Tasman and Nelson economy over the next 25 years.  Even the Council, which voted against it, has said that urban and rural water users will be facing significant water use cuts from this summer, following the   decision. One of the areas most affected by water cuts is plants. These are the trees, vines and the crops that provide employment and feed this region. If the trees and vines die because of a lack of water, it is unlikely that they will be re-planted and this means taking away economic activities from the district. This will result in job losses because without water there will not be highly productive fruit and vegetable growing.

So why did some of the councillors vote against this decision?  All members of the community, businesses and the environment in this area would be beneficiaries from the dam. I am struggling to understand why you would vote down such a beneficial scheme, as the dam was the most cost effective way to provide a secure water supply.

Did the Councillors consider the impact of climate change? We are looking at a future where there will be more adverse weather events, rainfall will become more variable, and drought and floods will be more frequent. Did they forget that last year, prior to Christmas, this area went onto water restrictions? Water storage is a vital mitigation to climate change so that during dry periods people, animals and plants have water to drink. Jobs and the livelihood and survival of their region depend on water. Without water there is not life.

The Tasman District is a prime horticulture producer of apples, kiwifruit, berries, broccoli, cabbages, lettuce and cauliflowers. Most of the fruit is exported, earning valuable overseas funds for New Zealand. The vegetables feed the region and other parts of New Zealand. How are people going to be able to eat healthy, locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables, if there are none because there is no water?  Do not think that imported fruit and vegetables will fill the demand. As the world’s population grows and climate change turns what were good growing areas into desserts, every country will be struggling to feed their own population, let alone others.

So this is a very short sighted decision that will damn the Tasman District for many years to come and see it most likely go into economic decline.  It is also a lesson for the rest of New Zealand: water storage is vital to mitigate the effects of climate change and make sure we can feed our people. Perhaps the Councillors would like to re-think this decision and think about providing for the District’s future generations.

- Mike Chapman, CEO