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Strong safeguards to be in place for dam

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/05/2017

The Hawkes' Bay Regional Council wants to tick all the environmental and financial boxes before agreeing to an $80 million investment in the controversial Ruataniwha Dam project.

At a meeting of the council on Wednesday, it was decided two conditions must be met before it invests in the $275m water storage scheme, which plans to create a 93 million cubic metre reservoir to store water in the upper Makaroro River.

If constructed, it is expected to improve river flows for agricultural use, providing irrigation for 25,000 hectares of farmland in the central Hawke's Bay.

It is deemed controversial because while it will allow farmers to ramp up production in the often-parched region, it also poses risks to waterways already under pressure from agricultural and industrial runoff.

The council conducted a review covering all the legal, financial, economic, engineering and environmental elements of the scheme - including the implications of withdrawing from it altogether.

The council's first condition decided on Wednesday aimed to put in safeguards that the council be satisfied that "nutrient management requirements" are met.

The second said a land exchange, currently before the Supreme Court, must be resolved.

Council chairman Rex Graham made no apologies for the review, saying "it has highlighted uncertainty for some councillors, and the council owes it to the ratepayers of Hawke's Bay to fully investigate the future impacts of the scheme".

The council is also joining the Environmental Defence Society and Fish & Game NZ in seeking clarification from the Environmental Court on land use consent conditions.

It is expected the Environment Court will deal with the matter before the end of 2017.

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