Finalising an investment partner is one of the few remaining hurdles to the proposed $330million Ruataniwha Dam going ahead in Central Hawke's Bay.
Hawke’s Bay's new economic prosperity plan launched by the Government on Wednesday ignores the "environmental fallout" of the proposed Ruataniwha Dam and the fact taxpayers will be burdened with the cost of building it, says Greenpeace.
Economic Development minister Steven Joyce, Minster for Primary Industries Nathan Guy and Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell were in Napier yesterday to launch 'Matariki - Hawke’s Bay Regional Development Strategy and Action Plan 2016'.
During the launch, Nathan Guy spoke favourably about the potential economic impact of the $330million dam going ahead in Central Hawke’s Bay, which would irrigate an extra 25,000 hectares of land on the drought-prone Ruataniwha Plains and which needs only to find an investment partner before getting the go-ahead.
Guy said it would create 3580 jobs "from farm to the port' and boost Hawke’s Bay's GDP by $380million "every year".
"And it’s not just about dairying, it’s about mixed arable [crops], it’s about the opportunities in horticulture, it’s about intensifying sheep and beef [farming] and working within those environmental constraints," Guy said.
The dam would also have a positive environmental impact on the Tukituki River and catchment area, Guy said.
"I’ve been up here in the summer and you could dance across the rocks [of the Tukituki] and hardly get your feet wet. If we can get the dam built and get a reliable flow of water through the Tukituki, that’s got to be good for the aquatic and the marine life," he said.
However Greenpeace campaigner Genevieve Toop, who was at the launch in Napier, said the plan "completely glosses over the environmental damage the dam would cause."
"Ruataniwha is a golden ticket to intensive dairying in the Hawke’s Bay, which will pollute local rivers and increase climate emissions.
"Over two thirds of New Zealand’s rivers are now too polluted to swim in safely. We should be cleaning them up and protecting them, not building irrigation schemes that will make the problem worse."
"The economics of Ruataniwha are also incredibly sketchy. Costs keep skyrocketing, key investors have walked away and now the Government plans to prop up the scheme with taxpayers’ money.
"This means ordinary New Zealanders will be forced to shoulder the costs and risks of a dam that does not stack up economically or environmentally.
Toop said it was understood ACC would be brought in as a major investor in the dam.
"If ACC’s brought in, Hawke’s Bay residents will be forced to pay three times over for the polluting scheme - once through their taxes, again through their rates and again through ACC levies."
A public petition calling for a ban on public subsidies for large-scale irrigation projects has attracted over 33,000 signatures, she said.