Construction underway at controversial Nelson dam

Media have been given an exclusive look at the major construction work underway for a controversial dam near Nelson.

The $100-million project was given the green light last year and is described by farmers as the answer to Tasman District's water supply woes. 

Nestled in Lee Valley near Nelson, the Waimea Community Dam is slowly taking shape.

Decades in the making, Tuesday's progress unveiling was a sight for sore eyes.

It's early days, as earth has only just started moving. But by February 2022 a 50-metre-high, 220-metre-long dam will be in commission.

Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne says he's elated by the progress.

"It's a tremendous outcome, it's nice to see it started," he told Newshub.

Around 13-million cubic metres of water will be contained in the reservoir, which will secure Tasman's water supply for 100 years.

In the dry months, when local rivers are running low, the dam will release water slowly downstream, refreshing local water supplies.

The dam's faced backlash and delays over its projected cost and benefit to the community.

Mayoral candidate Maxwell Clark believes its position between two major fault lines could be catastrophic in an earthquake.

"I have genuine concerns about the safety of the people below the dam in Brightwater for their wellbeing and their homes. I think it's wrong," he says.

But local MP Nick Smith says that's scaremongering.

"There isn't a place in New zealand that there isn't some level of earthquake risk," he says.

Smith says local farmers and horticulturists desperately need this dam.

They're the lifeblood of the Tasman economy and this project provides them with security.