Nelson MP Nick Smith has today deferred the first reading of the Waimea Augmentation Scheme Bill, but says he is not giving up on the dam project.
“I have today deferred Parliament’s consideration of the Bill scheduled for next Wednesday to let the dust settle on the Council’s 8-6 vote on Tuesday against the scheme. This short deferral will not affect getting this law passed on time if the funding problem can be solved.”
The Tasman District Council (Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill is being sponsored by Nelson MP Nick Smith and was introduced to Parliament on Tuesday 14 August. Support for the bill has been confirmed by National (56), Labour (46), NZ First (9) and Act (1) with only the Greens set to oppose, giving 112 votes to eight. The Bill was set down for first reading for 5 September but this now been deferred by Dr Smith under Standing Order 74.
“We are tantalisingly close to a solution to one of the region’s most longstanding and difficult problems. The project has full resource consents and approval of the Environment Court, a bill with the parliamentary support to solve the problem of access to the land and financial commitments of over $60m from Government, landowners and the neighbouring Nelson City Council. It would be a tragedy to lose the 18 years of work and $8m of investigation and design costs because of being shy of just one or two Councillor’s votes.
“The political problem with major infrastructure projects is that there is no pure answer as to where the costs should fall, particularly when the greatest benefits are for the environment and wider community. The claim that ratepayers are being asked to subsidize irrigators is false and the real issue is who should pay for the share of the dam being used to restore ecological flows in the river. Pragmatism is required and we all need to try a bit harder to find a solution.
“I am deferring the Bill to provide a window of opportunity to find a compromise. I would encourage Crown Irrigators Ltd and Waimea Irrigation to reflect on the narrow Council vote and try to bridge the gap. We also need those councillors opposing the project to recognise how cancelling this project will damage confidence in the region and be prepared to reconsider with a bit more external help.”