Dam opponents use Trump-like fake news approach in Tasman

An open letter to the Tasman community from Morgan Williams, former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and Hope resident.

It is extremely worrying that the WIN group, and recently an anonymous one, are publishing increasingly fanciful claims about risks the Waimea dam poses to the region and ratepayers, to undermine people's confidence in the plan for water security. Yes, there are cost implications to solving a major problem, but the dam has been evaluated as providing the most cost-effective water supply for Tasman's urban and rural residents.

Opponents' blatant dismissal of quality research is utterly irresponsible. As a result, they unashamedly misrepresent many aspects of the whole water augmentation project and increasingly appear to be aiming to intimidate anyone who may support this very valuable investment in the region's future. Intimidating fake news is not the way we do things in New Zealand. It needs to be called out.

Robust debate about major regional water needs and solutions is essential. But solutions have to be based on advice from specialists in their field. Meanwhile, the increasingly aggressive opponents presenting opinions and ideologies as facts are mostly unwilling to put their names to their spin.

The most recent scaremongering act is a flier to Brightwater residents about earthquake risks, as though all planning has ignored it. Obviously the dam design has considered earthquakes - New Zealand is an earthquake prone nation, something we live with and plan for. Claiming the dam will burst open and create an 8-metre tidal wave in Brightwater in 20 minutes is pure fantasy. Robust modelling disputes this claim - a claim that is just one of the blatant mistruths being advertised by these people.

The Brightwater flier also quotes Geologist Dr Mike Johnston completely out of context and untruthfully. The following is an email from him about his quotes used in the flier.

"The active faults have been recognised and the dam designed in consequence of this. The dam is not on an active fault but some distance from the Alpine Fault and WFFS. The GNS reference to the Alpine Fault is to the southern section and not to the northern section sometimes referred to as the Wairau Fault, which has a much lower level of activity. Therefore, what is quoted is at best mischievous."

I realise it is confusing to be told by different groups in the region that "we are telling the truth and others aren't." So, if you have questions about the dam, please seek information from those who really understand the details - not the noisy, often anonymous, few who claim they do.

For a good source of reports from specialists in their fields, I would recommend www.waimeawater.nz as a start.