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Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says a just released economic impact report on the consequences of not proceeding with the Waimea Community Dam is a wake-up call on the challenges the region faces on water management.

“This report, estimating the economic downside of not proceeding with the dam at $700 million, just reinforces how critical water is to the Nelson and Tasman economies. It is a real challenge for Government, the two Councils and irrigators to find a solution as to how we fund the dam, but the message from this report is that we must.”

 “The major blow from not having the dam is that we could only meet the new legal minimum flows in the Waimea River by slashing current consents by 70%. This will have a devastating impact on horticulture and jobs across the Waimea Plains and Nelson. The benefit of the dam is not just avoiding these cuts, but enabling the expansion of irrigation and town supply water.”

 My support for the Waimea Community Dam is not just for the financial benefits, but the environmental benefits. The repeated algae blooms in the Waimea River in summer that are so toxic as to kill dogs are because the flows are too low and the nutrients are too rich. The dam will increase summer flows, but also reduce diffuse nutrient pollution. This is because irrigated horticultural crops actually release less nitrates than the existing dry land farming.              

“I know the dam debate is causing some angst particularly over cost, but we need to be up front about the consequences to the region of what happens without it. This debate is not indifferent to that one hundred years ago, over financing the Cut through the Boulder Bank, or 40 years ago, for building the Maitai Dam. We enjoy the benefits of those past infrastructures investments paid for by the previous generations, but we also carry with that a responsibility to build the infrastructure for future generations. We need to have the courage to get on and invest in the infrastructure that will secure this region’s future.” 

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