MP’s from around New Zealand were in Richmond last week for the Select Committee hearings to consider 137 submissions on the bill I am sponsoring for the Tasman District Council to enable the Waimea Community Dam. The proponents did a powerful job of advocating the schemes merits.
There was a chorus of evidence from water quality scientists that the Waimea River has a serious problem with water quality caused by the insufficient summer flows and that this project was the best solution. This included respected organisations like the Cawthron Institute, Fish and Game, Tonkin & Taylor, highly recognised local Landcare Scientist Andrew Fenemor and former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Morgan Williams.
It was telling that there were no submissions against the scheme from any freshwater scientists or ecologists. The Green Party’s opposition to this scheme exposes them as unscientific and impractical in their approach to New Zealand’s environment challenges.
The economic evidence was even more compelling. We heard that the Waimea Plains is the world capital of boysenberry growing with 60% of the NZ crop and 30% of global production. This unique Nelson industry will have no future without the dam and a secure water supply.
We also heard from Waimea Nurseries, the largest commercial nursery in New Zealand, employing 200 full time and casual staff. We were told the future of this 50 year old business in Nelson would also be at risk without water.
We also heard from many farmers and horticulturists with 95% in favour of the project. A few opposed the scheme because of the huge cost it would impose. This debunks the claim orchardists are getting a free ride. Their financial commitment to this scheme is huge.
The submissions from industry were universally in favour. Everyone wants more of our logs, fruit, fish and meat to be processed in New Zealand. The point made by Nelson Pine, Aica NZ and the Alliance Meatworks who collectively employ over 500 Nelsonians, was that a secure water supply is essential to their future. Nelson Pine Industries faces shutting down for up to 100 days a year due to insufficient water for processing, under the no dam minimum flows rules.
We did hear submissions from recreational organisations like Fish and Game, Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ and the Walking Access Commission that the public access provisions in the bill needed to be strengthened. I will be working with the Tasman District Council and Select Committee to achieve this. I want people to be able to enjoy the improved fishing, swimming and recreational opportunities.
I encourage people who doubt the merits of this project to go to www.parliament.nz and read submitters evidence. Any doubts of the scheme by my parliamentary colleagues were quelled by the quality of the submissions in support.
My goal is to try and get this Bill through Parliament by years end. It is critical to our regions environmental and economic future.