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Nelson MP Nick Smith is concerned at the distress being caused by an anonymous anti-dam brochure delivered to all households in Brightwater that makes false claims of the town being at risk of an eight metre tidal wave if the dam proceeds.

“I am appalled that dam opponents have resorted to this sort of desperate scaremongering. I have had frightened older residents contacting my office scared witless and mothers in tears at the A & P show over the weekend out of fear for their family. Nobody should be publishing or distributing made up claims on issues as serious as earthquake and tidal wave risks.”

“It is bad enough that those responsible for this scaremongering have not put their name to it, but worse that they have tried to give it credibility by using the good names of Dr Mike Johnson of GNS and Tonkin and Taylor. These experts have dismissed the accuracy of the claims in the brochure, saying they are “very misleading” and “mischievous.”

Dr Mike Johnston has stated “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.”

Doug Johnson of Tonkin and Taylor states “This brochure is very misleading. Nowhere does our analysis say Brightwater would be hit by ‘a tidal wave up to eight metres high.’ We urge people to read our full reports that are publicly available on the Tasman District Council website. Our 2009 report concluded “the risk of failure occurring for a dam engineered, built, maintained and monitored to appropriate standards, as would be the case for the Lee Dam, would be extremely low.”

Dr Smith says the most misleading aspect of the brochure is claiming dam failure is likely when it is designed for the maximum credible earthquake with a return period of over 10,000 years. “The dam is to be built to withstand an earthquake greater than magnitude 8 and a higher standard than for bridges, schools, hospitals or homes.

“New Zealand has thousands of dams and despite hundreds of earthquakes, there has not been a single fatality from a dam failure in 175 years. The Waimea Community Dam is not particularly large with over 400 nationwide that are larger.

“It is ridiculous that the brochure questions whether home owners will be able to get insurance, suggests their property values will plummet and that Council will put flood inundation risk notices on their property titles. The Maitai Dam in Nelson has had none of these effects in the central city. If authors of this brochure had any regards for people’s property values they would not be distributing blatantly false claims about the dam.”

“This anonymous brochure has been timed to try and influence important decisions in Parliament tomorrow on my Bill enabling land access for the dam and at Council on Friday on finalising the contracts to build the Dam. If people had concerns about the Dam’s safety, the proper place to contest these issues was before the Environment Court when the Resource Consents were granted in August 2014 and where evidence and claims are robustly tested.

“Dam opponents have repeatedly challenged the Tasman District Council over issues of transparency and accountability, but are blowing their credibility with an anonymous brochure that makes false and untruthful statements. I urge anybody who has information on who is publishing and distributing these false claims to contact me. People should not be able to scare the hell out of a community like Brightwater with these sorts of false claims and they should be exposed for their reckless behaviour.”

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