I am delighted construction is now underway on the $104m Waimea Community Dam. It is the largest dam to be built in New Zealand for more than 20 years and the biggest infrastructure project in Nelson since the Stoke Bypass.
The first stage has been upgrading the access road into the Lee Valley, clearing the pine forest from the dam site, creating a contractor’s yard at Pig Flat and constructing settlement ponds for controlling run off. This has been successfully completed.
The next stage is to excavate the actual dam site down to bedrock. Then comes the construction of the culvert and coffer dams so as to enable the river to be diverted. This is expected to be completed by autumn 2020. The construction of the 53m rockfill dam can then begin involving about a million tonne of earthworks.
The construction of the 124m long spillway is the largest civil works of the project. It ensures the dam’s safety during a major flood. Its construction will begin in spring 2020 when activity on site and the workforce will peak. We expect the dam to be completed in late 2021 and to take about three months to fill.
It has been a tortuous political journey to get this project started. It has been subject to over a decade of debate at public meetings, Council meetings, Cabinet meetings, Select Committee Hearings and Parliament. I believe more strongly than ever that it is the right answer to securing the future of our horticultural industry, providing water for our growing urban population, improving the quality of water in the Waimea River and ensuring our region is more resilient to climate change.
There are so many ducks to get in a row for a project of this scale to be built. Many have faltered in not getting resource consents, landowner agreements, or funding. My role has been getting a bill through Parliament to enable access to the conservation land in the Mt Richmond Forest Park and helping secure $40million of grants and discounted loans from Government. I pay tribute to retiring Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne and those courageous councillors who have backed this critical regional project.
These major infrastructure projects are always contentious. The easy option for politicians is to defer, seek another report, or do nothing. The Port Nelson Cut, Cobb Dam, Coastal Highway, Maitai Dam and Stoke Bypass all had their critics but have proved their worth many times over. Now the dam is underway, we need to push on with upgrading the highway into the city and building Nelson a new hospital.
Building the dam is now over to Waimea Water and the joint contractors, Taylors and Fulton Hogan to build it. There are many financial, safety and environmental risks for them to manage. It is a large project being built in remote, tough terrain. It will involve a team of over 100 engineers, machine operators and tradespeople, most of whom will be Nelsonians.
I wish them every success in getting the dam safely built, on time and within budget.