Opinion split over approval of $100m Waimea Dam Project

A controversial $100 million dam south of Nelson has just been given the go-ahead by the Tasman District Council.

Supporters bill it as a lifeline for the region's farmers and growers, but opponents say the 53 metre high concrete dam in the Lee Valley is a money pit. 

The Waimea Dam Project will be mostly funded by central and local government.

On Thursday the local council voted nine to four to approve it, with the mayor a leading supporter. 

"I'm very pleased; this has been a long process and wonderful to get to this decision today," said Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne. 

Supporters say the nearly $106 million project will secure the region's water supply for the next 100 years and increase employment.

"If the dam hadn't gone ahead we would have had to make hard decisions at certain times of the year, what was going to be left to grow and what would be left to basically die off," says gardener Pierre Gargiulo. 

Apple-grower Richard Hoddy says, "We wouldn't be able to continue growing apples like we are today into the future."

But the opposition has been strong, with many locals slating it as a sham.

"Urban supply does not need the water and the rate payer should not be paying one dollar towards it," says local resident Murray Dawson. 

Richmond resident Maxwell Clark says it's a black hole for public funds.

"Do they want their diesel costs on their tractors to be paid for as well?"

And also a public safety risk. 

"Building a dam between the two known active fault lines, I think it was wrong in principle, I think the Brightwater community and the people of the Lee Valley are being put in extreme risk."

But Mayor Kempthorne says it's now time for everyone to get behind the plans.

"I think it would be really great if people can actually accept we'll just walk together on this journey now."


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