Enough demand for Ruataniwha Dam - Council
Enough farmers and interested parties have expressed interest in the controversial Ruataniwha Dam to make it viable.
The Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) has today said there'd be enough demand for the project to take it through to the finalisation of the scheme.
So far, the Regional Council's investment arm has secured 196 water user agreements either signed or confirmed, with more at "advanced negotiation" as well as call options for water use agreements.
They account for 48.5 million cubic metres of water, though the confirmed contracted figure is 42.8 million cubic metres.
The proposed 83m-high dam on the upper Makaroro River would hold around 100 million cubic metres of water. The council had previously said it would need to commit to taking at least 45 million cubic metres of water for the project to proceed.
HBRIC chief executive Andrew Newman says the company has a "high degree of confidence" in closing the remaining deals under negotiation and about the call options.
Reaching 50 million cubic metres by June was now a "realist target".
They say the number of agreements had increased monumentally over the past three weeks from 161 to 196.
"Overall, the Central Hawke's Bay community has unequivocally demonstrated its commitment to and desire to see the Ruataniwha water storage scheme go ahead," he says.
"The landowners and businesses can see the long term benefits of having more water available for both the environment and the economy."
But the Green Party says the project should be dumped completely.
"HBRIC has only just scraped together farmers to commit to use 43 million cubic metres of water, when they need subscribers for 45 million cubic metres of water to make the project viable," says water spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty.
She says the company hasn't secured the land for the dam yet and is relying on public money to keep the project alive.
"This irrigation scheme will only make the water more polluted; most of the rivers in the Tukituki catchment, where the dam is proposed to be built, are already polluted and exceed acceptable nitrate levels."
It's estimated the cost of the dam will be around $900 million.
HBRIC says other investors need to confirm their commitment to the project before they can move to the construction phase.