Asking the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to sign a 35-year water user agreement, on top of $80 million-plus of ratepayer investment earmarked for the Ruataniwha Dam, is the latest worrying sign the scheme is more sham than dam, says Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri.
“After five years of failing to secure necessary water-uptake from farmers and failing to secure institutional investors, Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) is now effectively asking the Regional Council and ratepayers to sell water to themselves.
“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that HBRIC’s water user agreement offer to Council is a desperate measure for the investment company to meet its water sign-up targets.
“This has now gone too far. Deadlines have come and gone, major investors have walked away and meeting the water-sign up condition – a major priority for ensuring certainty of cash flow - is in a ‘holding pattern’.
“Meanwhile, Hawke’s Bay ratepayers continue to pour millions of dollars into this scheme and pay HBRIC’s chief executive Andrew Newman’s salary.
“In return, ratepayers get excuses, shifting goalposts and corporate jargon in place of any real assurances around what is happening with this scheme.
“I can’t think of any other chief executive promoting a commercial operation who would be able to get away with so many ongoing delaying tactics without delivering any results.
“I’m calling on HBRIC and the Regional Council to provide concrete assurances to Hawke’s Bay ratepayers now - or get out of this deal.
“It’s time to accept that Ruataniwha is more sham than dam,” says Meka Whaitiri.