Media Release – Council investigates Local Bill for dam land

The Tasman District Council will consider promoting a Local Bill in Parliament to gain access to Crown land needed for the reservoir that will be formed by the Waimea Community Dam.

The 9.6 hectares is Crown conservation land in the Mount Richmond Forest Park and is administered by the Department of Conservation. DOC has advised the Council the previously-agreed method for transferring ownership of the land through the Public Works Act is no longer available, so a Local Bill is now likely to be the best option for securing the land.

The Council and DOC have worked together throughout the past 15 years of investigation and research into the dam project. DOC has agreed to a $2 million biodiversity package and pest management programme to offset the impacts of the Dam on the conservation land and to enhance biodiversity in the wider catchment area as far as the coast. This package was agreed as part of the resource consent requirements for the dam. Some of the measures within this package are already underway.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said without the DOC land, the dam would have to be significantly reduced in size – holding only about 1.5 million cubic metres of water compared with the 13 million cubic metres currently planned.

“We’ve looked at smaller dams in the past and the problem is that while most of the cost is in the base of the structure – the foundations and fixed costs, the value is in the water held at the top. A smaller dam is not economical so without this piece of land the project isn’t viable.”

Richard said the Local Bill process would delay the project timeframes. It could take until March/April of 2019 for the bill to make its way through Parliament.

“Any delay is disappointing – but the end goal remains the same. The other work needed before the final decision on the project is made will continue. The early contractor involvement process to identify a construction price is particularly critical to our decision-making, and we expect to have that information by July.”

Richard said the various parties funding the project had now all confirmed their contributions, including the Nelson City Council ($5 million), Tasman District Council ($26.8 million), Waimea Irrigators Limited ($16.5 million), Crown Irrigation Investments Limited ($22 million - $25 million loan to WIL, $10 million interest-free loan to Tasman District Council) and the Ministry for the Environment ($7 million grant).

“With the funding secured, we now wait for the construction price and finalising access to land with the Crown and Ngati Koata. The delay will mean another summer where we have to manage water under the status quo but it’s critical we get all the pieces lined up before we proceed.”

About Local Bills

Local authorities may put forward a Local Bill to deal with specific issues in their area. For example, a Local Bill may ask Parliament to lift a land-use restriction or permit a land-use for a particular place that would normally be outside the law.