Waimea a good dam?

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, July 14th, 2017 - 54 comments
Categories: Conservation, Environment, food, greens, labour, national, nick smith, sustainability, water - Tags:

According to Stuff, National and Labour have “come out of their respective blue and red corners to back the proposed Waimea dam in the face of Green criticism.”

Local MP Nick Smith supports it. His Labour party rival Rachel Boyack said the project stacked up economically and environmentally, and Labour in government would honour any existing Crown commitment to the scheme.

It’s going to cost $82.5 million. Currently.

The dedicated website for the project is here.

 

That has a full document library within it, including the economic analyses, water management plans within the Tasman Resource Management Plan, and has the granted Resource Consents and conditions for you to plough through. At least skip through the summaries please before opining below.

On the Tasman Council site there’s a full document library.

Construction tenders are already well into their final round of evaluation. There are no land take issues. This one is going to get built, in the next parliamentary term. It’s not unreasonable to argue that this is a local issue best considered by locals who will deal with its effects good and bad.

But dams are topical. Labour and National agree on this one, but the Greens oppose it.

So there’s a debate to be had about New Zealand’s productivity-per-hectare. Kate Fulton, the Green party candidate for West Coast Tasman, asks the big questions of Tasman Council: “What is their vision for their region? How do they want their land to look in 50 years’ time?” I have a sneaky feeling from the documents I’ve skimmed through that Tasman are seeking more and more of the same: highly intensified horticulture like apples and hops needing certain water supply. Same for the burgeoning water needs of Nelson and Richmond.

To my mind, the Tasman area is a great counterfactual to the Mackenzie Basin. Mackenzie Basin previously ran extensive sheep farming, but is getting more and more intensified into dairy. Yet at the same time is getting a higher and higher profile from tourism through the Alps to Ocean cycleway. Currently there’s a good chance that the MacKenzie Basin water-irrigated dairy will put the alternative and less damaging industry at risk.

So water-accelerated per-hectare productivity is a very blunt instrument. Water-accelerated per-hectare productivity linked to crops that are expensive to produce but demand an absolute premium on world markets is IMHO better. The Tasman Council can see that this kind of future needs a lot more water than on-farm storage will ever allow. So can National and Labour. There’s money to be made, security to be gained, and productivity to improve.  And therein is the politics of water.

I saw Bowalley Road complaining about large projects under National governments representing some apparently Stalinist approach to economic development. Even the most disruptive dams in New Zealand have had very significant benefits to us all. As he would be aware, they were installed by both National and Labour governments over many decades in a far less democratically responsive era. Chris Trotter has not yet found an economic development policy he agrees with – and it’s high time he did.

Beyond economic development and the allowable scope of public agency, is public subsidy. This dam won’t pay for itself. It will need contributions from Nelson City Council and central government. That makes it come into the cross-hairs of public policy.

After the colossal failure of Ruitaniwha, is the Waimea Dam a chance to get the vexed question of per-hectare productivity right with a dam? Or are the risks not worth our public dollar?

54 comments on “Waimea a good dam?”

  1. I’m opposed to this dam at a visceral level. The river they plan to dam is the one I swam in and swam in and swam in as a boy. It’s specialness will be lost. Selfish view? Yes but perhaps it’s those experiential things; real relationships between beings; the river and me, that should be used when decisions have to be made. The many arguments for and against usually result in defenceless “beings” like rivers, getting monstered. So, it’s a resounding NO from me.

    • Andre 1.1

      I’m curious, Robert, is there a dam project anytime/anywhere you can think of that you would support? Even a hypothetical one?

    • onya Robert – they will take all our memories if we let them. This proposal is just so much rubbish – like a tip full really – all so greedy individuals can make money and then go on holidays in the snow or sun – fuck off, no way!

      • Marty, it’s where “economic prosperity means a better life for all” and “you can’t be green if you’re in the red” meets, well, you! And me. And some others. “They will take all our memories” is a very pertinent observation, imo; “The Great Forgetting” has already been enacted and we’ve mostly forgotten who we are. It took millenia, but here we are, fully immersed in a fabricated world, fully supported by religion, commerce, culture and communications that combine to keep us forgetful. Trouble is, we’ve all fallen for it to some extent, making us culpable; “you can’t protest oil extraction if you use oil products, ya greenie hypocrite!!” and there’s truth in that. Unravelling the myth and discovering who you really are is the only worthwhile pursuit. All else flows from that. Mind your back (keep it to a tree)

        🙂

    • Ian 1.3

      What about the economic benefits to the Nelson province Robert ?The Matai dam was argued about many years ago but without it Nelson would have run out of water. Storing water helps out citys too ,not just the irrigators. You need to pull your finger out mate . Opuha dam has been a saviour for Timaru .

  2. Micro dams, localized projects that benefit the surrounding environment as well as the people who constructed them would be top of my list of “dams that are okay”. They’d have to be removable though, given I hold to the philosophy artifact restoration staff at museums hold; never do anything that can’t be undone.
    If an already degraded landscape could be brought back to health with the waters from a dam, then yes; fixing our past foolishness with careful, targeted technology like a dam would cut it with me. Damming for the sake of increased prosperity doesn’t. There are other scenarios where I’d support a dam project, Andre, but I’ve already answered your question.

    • Andre 2.1

      Thanks, Robert. Your first comment came across to me as a bit knee-jerk anti, but I had the feeling there might be a bit more nuance behind that.

      Personally, my head’s fighting my knee-jerk anti reaction. I haven’t waded through the info on aspects that matter to me, but it looks to me like a project I’d reluctantly agree wasn’t too bad a thing. It appears the area to be flooded is already degraded plantation pine and there’s no special ecological or recreational values to that particular area or downstream that I’m aware of.

      • “Knee-jerk” is the perfect description for my reaction, Andre, and I make no apology for my body reacting to the threat to another body (of water) that it had a wonderful relationship with when it was young. Always listen to what your body’s telling you 🙂

    • Bill 2.2

      Bit of a tangent, but…

      Micro dams. India. Worked in with the topography and were located and managed off the back of accumulated local knowledge.

      Then came the Brits, centralisation of water management, big dams …. and drought.

      • Same thing happened across Africa as well. Imported European knowledge caused huge amount of damage.

      • Bill – it’s a matter of scale, and that’s where we’ve gone wrong, imo.
        Understanding industry in terms of scale and limiting it accordingly is the one avenue humans can take to improve our chances of survival. I only wish we’d done it earlier (we being Homo Agriculturalist), as many other cultures did, but we didn’t and now we’re in dire straits. It’s still the path across the blasted plain – in this case, the Waimea Plain, in my opinion.

        • Ad 2.2.2.1

          What scale of water storage would you permit, if scale is your issue?

          • Robert Guyton 2.2.2.1.1

            I wouldn’t set myself as the authority, Ad 🙂
            Horses for courses. It depends upon the “industry” requiring the storage. My rule of thumb might be; how much good for all concerned (my “all” is pretty nebulous) might accrue from this fabrication? My tendency is away from centralization and toward individual. I’d be looking at multiple values from the activity and water quality and volume as it exits the scheme. For example and on a small scale, drinking water from the tap and flushing the resulting urine down the toilet is wrong, imo. Same of on a large scale. As well, growing very thirsty crops in a water deprived landscape and relying on imported water would not win my stamp of approval. Water storage also requires vessels, and concrete and plastic have their drawbacks. Appropriate technologies would win my support. When it comes down to it, humus in soil is the superior water storage facility. Perhaps the TDS could get smart about this issue. Perhaps we all could.

            • Ad 2.2.2.1.1.1

              I see your turn away from centralisation there.
              I come from a different philosophy to that.

              Centralisation is the only way to do more than simply make life good for specific individuals.

              Humanity takes collective effort. To me the social task is to continue to raise the capacity of humans for the common good of all.

              Only centralised and collective assets, including those for water, can deliver that sustained public good over the long term.

              I don’t think we have the collective right to expect people to sustain their existing intensive crops through a specific water-absorbtion regime. I’m sure it might work for a few who choose it.

              I do think we have an expectation that Council should represent the common good for people over the long term – which means building and using assets that distribute and sustain that public good over the long term.

              • I see your turn away from centralisation there.
                I come from a different philosophy to that.

                Centralization of drinking water supply, I’m describing. It’s an example of where individual efforts are actively dissuaded and other vulnerabilities/generalizations exploited – flouridation, water source etc. If you choose, for example, not to drink water taken from a river alongside of which 14 redundant refuse sites sit, uncontained, you’d struggle to favour the centralized reticulation system that draws from that river and perhaps prefer, as I do, to collect rain from your roof. Still have to pay the water rates though.

                Centralisation is the only way to do more than simply make life good for specific individuals.
                Cooperation would do the same thing, as would following a shared code of practice. Centralization, in a physical sense, isn’t the only way at all, imo.

                Humanity takes collective effort.
                Not sure that sentence makes sense, Ad.
                To me the social task is to continue to raise the capacity of humans for the common good of all.
                Yes, I agree.

                Only centralised and collective assets, including those for water, can deliver that sustained public good over the long term.
                Ah, collective, yes. Centralized actions though, can be decentralized and shared amongst smaller groups, giving them flexibility and a chance to apply their local knowledge to the betterment of all. By your “”centralization” directive, a One World Order must appeal, yes?

                I don’t think we have the collective right to expect people to sustain their existing intensive crops through a specific water-absorbtion regime. I’m sure it might work for a few who choose it.
                Grandparenting, aye! “I’m already growing rice, so exceptionally high water takes are my right!” – is that what you mean? Surely, if the whole community is being borne in mind, outliers like the Nelson rice farmer should be encouraged not to force the issue for his own benefit at the cost to everyone else. The same might be said of grapes or kiwifruit.

                I do think we have an expectation that Council should represent the common good for people over the long term – which means building and using assets that distribute and sustain that public good over the long term.
                Now we’re into thorny territory – councils! Who’d be on one of those? Imagine a council consisting primarily of vineyard owners, making the decision about the Lee Valley dam? Any thoughts, Ad?

            • Ian 2.2.2.1.1.2

              For Nelsons future prosperity I sincerely hope you stay in Southland. Sympathy to my dairy farming brothers in Southland .

    • Micro dams, localized projects that benefit the surrounding environment as well as the people who constructed them would be top of my list of “dams that are okay”.

      Nature creates dams all the time. They’re not really destructive of the environment.

      It’s the humans and their use of dams to intensify their pollution that are the problem.

  3. Bill 3

    Water collection/management is all good. But I’ve a couple of questions I couldn’t readily see the answer to with a quick flick through the links. And one proposal.

    1. What is the expected life of a dam?
    2. How does that accord with AGW timescales – ie, what elevation is all that horticulture sitting at? (Between 6m and 9m of sea level rise is locked in and is going to be arriving at an increasingly fast rate.)

    1. Why not have every house (and other appropriate structures) equipped with water storage tanks that can then capture rain water from the roof as well reticulated water? (A partially sunken water tank in an earthquake is much less vulnerable and damaging in the event of an earthquake, no?)

    • Very good question about water collection with tanks, Bill. The same could be/should be asked across the country.

    • Ad 3.2

      Yes the Green Party person asked the same question.

      The response from the proponents and from Minister Smith is that while on-site collection from rooves is useful for domestic household consumption, it will in no way serve the capacity required for intensive horticulture, nor will it serve the long term supply needs of Richmond and Nelson.

      • Logically then, if domestic water collection would suffice for homes, and it’s industry that needs the dam, homes shouldn’t have to pay and industry should. Councils/Government should, as part of their climate change preparedness obligations, subsidize water domestic water tanks.

        • Ad 3.2.1.1

          It will be enough for a few of the rural and lifestyle types.
          But not enough to run a whole city, which is growing quickly.

          I think you are getting the public policy point.
          Subsidising public use of water for personal use is a basic local government task.

          Dams for public supply are a collective effort of public funds for a long term necessity, rather than a subsidy for water tanks on private property which can never benefit anyone else.

          Should that subsidy through collective effort and collective funding also extend to industry?
          After all, in Nelson, the economic settings are very different to Hawkes Bay or Southland: they are intensifying crops. It’s horticulture and viticulture, not dairy.

          And if industry bought that water on a commercial basis, why should the opposition still stand?

          • Robert Guyton 3.2.1.1.1

            It will be enough for a few of the rural and lifestyle types.
            But not enough to run a whole city, which is growing quickly.

            Nelson City gets its water from a different river, well distant from the Lee Valley

            I think you are getting the public policy point.
            Subsidising public use of water for personal use is a basic local government task.
            Local government is willing to subsidize reticulated, centralized systems – why not domestic water tanks?

            Dams for public supply are a collective effort of public funds for a long term necessity, rather than a subsidy for water tanks on private property which can never benefit anyone else.
            A domestic water tank, like the water heater, stays with the house upon resale, ergo, others benefit. As well, the load on the reticulated supply is lightened when individuals save and store their own.

            Should that subsidy through collective effort and collective funding also extend to industry?
            Industry would (and does) love that. The growers are choosing to intensify in order to increase their profits. Why should the public pay them for that?
            After all, in Nelson, the economic settings are very different to Hawkes Bay or Southland: they are intensifying crops. It’s horticulture and viticulture, not dairy.
            Not dairy? So what? Intensive conventional horticulture has a deleterious effect on the environment too, donchaknow.

            And if industry bought that water on a commercial basis, why should the opposition still stand?
            The reasons for opposing the dam would change, if that was the case, but not disappear.

            • Ad 3.2.1.1.1.1

              You are right that Nelson takes its water from the Roding, Maitai, and Maitai North rivers. However Richmond and Nelson water supplies are related, as per the Asset Management Plan:

              http://nelson.govt.nz/assets/Our-council/Downloads/Plans-strategies-policies/2016/asset-management/Final-Water-Supply-Asset-Management-Plan-2015-25.-15Oct2015.pdf

              “It is assumed that by 2021 Richmond will not be taking water from Nelson as by then the Waimea Water Augmentation dam currently being investigated for the Lee River is expected to have been built. However the current resource consent requires that if Tasman District Council ceases to take water from Nelson, then the residual flow be increased by 10.5 litres per second = 907m3/day.”

              Both Nelson and Richmond need the new dam to manage the water demand between them.

              I can see why privatised subsidy on private property is attractive. After all plenty have got the Home Insulation benefits. A few thousand per house. I’d suggest a self-sufficient water and sewerage system would be tens of thousands per property – you have to ask when taxpayer$$ and ratepayer$$ has a limit to subsidising purely private benefit when the public option is guaranteed better for all, and for longer.

              • A suitably sized rain water storage tank wouldn’t cost a great deal, Ad.
                Let’s leave sewerage out of the discussion for now. Later, if you wish, I have strong views.
                Home insulation is a good analogy. Warm homes for individual families benefit the whole community. So do homes that have plentiful supplies of clean drinking water. It’s a societal issue, the very thing governance should attend to.

    • Gabby 3.3

      Carbon footprint of individual water tanks?

    • Poission 3.4

      Does the sip of a butterfly from a Siberian stream lower water levels?

      http://siberiantimes.com/PICTURES/OTHERS/Butterflies-Siberia/inside%206.jpg

  4. I find it interesting that not building the dam is mentioned as a cost. Obviously not building it doesn’t cost a dam thing. Building it does brings costs and possible benefits.

    None of the reports seem to look at environmental damage done by the dam. We can assume that increased farming will do the same damage to the Tasman/Nelson area as it does elsewhere.

    All of them assume that having a dam increases rainfall. Water takes are dependent upon rainfall and not the existence of a dam. Increasing water takes because of a dam will decrease water flowing in the river. That’s physical reality and happens to be true whether there’s a dam there or not.

    • Stuart Munro 4.1

      The thing that would win the Green argument for me would be a plurality of costed sustainable horticulture (or aquaculture) alternatives to the dam. By world standards Nelson is not remotely desert country and it is likely that good design could render the dam unnecessary.

      • By world standards Nelson is not remotely desert country and it is likely that good design could render the dam unnecessary.

        Probably.

        That and growing crops that suit the area.

        • Robert Guyton 4.1.1.1

          Hemp would be king in Nelson.
          After all, they’ve done very well out of tobacco and hops.
          If the place does dry up (it might!), peyote and blue agave.
          If it gets really arid, melange.

          • Stuart Munro 4.1.1.1.1

            May His passing cleanse the world 😉

            • Robert Guyton 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Nick Smith is Piter De Vries, amirite?

              • Ad

                It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

              • Stuart Munro

                Pretty sure Judith would love wielding the gom jabbar.

                Guess that leaves Gerry as Alia’s wicked uncle.

                On a more prosaic note – Cheju-do, a much drier place than Nelson, grows prickly pear on its worst ground, the fruit of which make a filling for the popular locally produced chocolate.

  5. Cinny 5

    No it’s not a good idea and I’m bloody pissed if my rates will be used to pay for it.

    It’s not so much about farming, it’s all about horticulture, especially viticulture.

    For years and years people have grown produce on the plains, no problem.

    The mayor of the TDC is pro national from what I understand

    One of the councillors endorsing the damn Kit Mailing has a conflict of interest, he’s a former share holder of Waimea Irrigation, the proposed partner group of the dam. He should not have been involved in any decision or discussion, but he was.

    The TDC will only be getting around 18% usage of the water, the rest will go to irrigators. However the irrigators want the council/rate payers to foot most of the bill.

    I just wonder who is going to profit from the construction of the dam, something just doesn’t sit right about it, will ask around.

    • Viticulture uses tanalized posts. They leach into the soil. In any case, alcohol.
      Vast amounts of money are to be made off the Waimea Plains. Must have water!

      • Cinny 5.1.1

        Don’t worry Rob, they are replacing the tanalized posts, what are they doing with the old posts?
        It’s well known around these parts that most of the posts are being burnt by those replacing them.
        But I don’t think we were supposed to have seen or noticed it. True story.

        • Robert Guyton 5.1.1.1

          Good people, sharing their arsenic with their fellow Nelsonians!
          One of the greatest threats to the environment is the very behaviour you describe, Cinny; sly disposal of toxic materials. I’ll bet every commenter here knows of incidents like those you describe. As a regional councillor, I’m informed regularly of such events.
          The market for locally-grown naturally rot-resistant posts must be strong. What trees are they using?

    • Exactly – this dam is about creating more profits for individuals – wine growers specifically. This isn’t about securing power supplies or protecting the people. It is a crock of shit and is being spun. For instance above micro hydro is mentioned – that is a power generation device not a water irrigation tool. Time to wake up to the real agenda not the spiders spun one imo.

      • Cinny 5.2.1

        x 100% Marty, you are on to it. Also I’d say the waimea plains will eventually be taken over in part by housing in the future, but would need to check the long term town plan to make sure I’m correct about that.

        Not many people at all live up the Lee Valley where they are proposing the dam, it’s so beautiful up there, that’s where many go swimming in the summer. Lots of people head up there for mountain biking and dirt biking as well. There is also alot of forestry up the Lee Valley.

    • prickles 5.3

      There have been a number of formal complaints sent to (?)the attorney general regarding Kit Maling’s conflicts of interest. It will be very interesting to hear what comes of that.

  6. prickles 6

    What the TDC and Nick Smith carefully leave out of their arguments for the dam is that there are no plans to reticulate the saved water for domestic use. The only purpose is to use it to “flush the river and maintain the flow” in the drier months so that the irrigators can continue to take water as they please. It is not going to benefit even the local Brightwater and Richmond residents, let alone those in Murchison. Motueka or Golden Bay. It is only for the benefit of the handful of irrigators – yet the ratepayers from throughout the district are expected to pay for it.
    A very definite “No dam” from me.

    • How strong’s your local Forest & Bird branch?
      They’re knocking them over everywhere they go.
      Talk to Kevin.

      • Wayne 6.1.1

        RG,

        If the dam already has resource consents (which are beyond the appeal times) and it is funded, then it will happen.

        Forest and Bird might be against it but it cannot be stopped.

        At some point in the resource consent process people have to be able to have finality, one way or another (i.e. the resource consent is approved beyond all appeals, or the consent has been finally refused). This is essential if property rights are to have any meaning at all. In this case it looks that finality works in favour of the dam developers, so therefore it is a done deal.

        Presumably even the Green Party recognises this. Inevitably there will be developments that proceed that the Greens oppose, even if they are in government. And that is how it should be. Otherwise we would be living in a dictatorship ruled by decree. Ministers views (whether Green or otherwise) don’t have the force of law. And thank goodness for that.

        • Stuart Munro 6.1.1.1

          … right … except when it’s Nathan Guy granting Thiel citizenship by fiat… or Key inflicting the corrupt and ineffectual Brownlee CERA on Christchurch…

          National’s adherence to the principles of our kind of democracy is mostly honoured in the breach Wayne. And your corrupt colleagues are going to pay for it.

        • Robert Guyton 6.1.1.2

          “Presumably even the Green Party recognises this.”
          That sort of unnecessary slight is one of the reasons people like myself hold National Party MPs in low regard, Wayne. The present Prime Minister employs such slights as a matter of habit and has done so for much, if not all, of his political career.

        • Philj 6.1.1.3

          I have been told that there is an area of reserve land which could pose some dam problems for the TDC too. Mayor Kempthorne is pushing hard and has just made the casting vote for a matter relating to this dam proposal, I won’t call it a project. The ratepayers will be holding the liability for any shortfall or loans. Originally the farmers carried the risk for the loan. No longer.

  7. Philj 7

    This is another dam project foisted on reluctant ratepayers of the wider region. The original proposal was pushed by corporate and large business interests, not surprisingly. It didn’t stack up financially, so the council came to there side. The locals are against the cost of it and the some senior personages at TDC are continuing to push it hard, although the council itself is split on it.

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