Project Timeline

Several decades of work has led to the Waimea Community Dam solution.


Former Nelson Catchment and Regional Water Board commissions a study to consider building a dam in the Wairoa Gorge. Other small dam options in the Moutere geology area were also considered pre-1993.

Summer 2000 – 2001

Severe drought in Tasman highlights the magnitude of the water shortage issue.


Waimea Water Augmentation Committee (WWAC) is established to look at options for water supply. Members include the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, iwi, irrigators, plus Tasman District and Nelson City councillors and staff. A Tasman regional water study re-examines some earlier options as well as a dam for the upper Wairoa River with cost estimates.


A large number of sites are examined, and gradually narrowed down through an assessment of engineering, environmental and social factors. From this process, the preferred site is chosen in the Upper Lee Valley. Interim water management measures are adopted.


WWAC completes detailed feasibility study.


WWAC recommends a private co-operative company be established to operate the dam. The Council is advised that there are legal constraints on funding arising from the proposed company model. New freshwater allocation policies and rules introduced to the Tasman Resource Management Plan to provide for minimum flows and rationing for either a dam or no dam.

March 2014

Changes to water rules in the Tasman Resource Management Plan come into effect.

September 2014

Waimea Community Dam Ltd lodges application for resource consent.

October 2014

Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency releases a report it commissioned through NZIER that shows regional GDP would reduce by between $17.5 million and $34.5 million per year without the Waimea Community Dam.

October – November 2014

Ahead of the 2015 Long Term Plan, the Council consults on how the dam should be funded and managed. The proposal for the Council to carry the full capital and operating cost of the dam is not favoured.

March – May 2015

Council consults the community on including up to $25m for the dam (33% of the estimated dam capital cost) in the budgets for the Draft Long Term Plan 2015 – 2025 and adopts this proposal.

March 2015

Resource consents granted “to allow the construction, operation and maintenance of a dam and associated infrastructure on the Lee River in Tasman District”, subject to a number of conditions.

2015 – 2016

Affiliated and non-affiliated water permits are introduced that change water allocation policies and rules for abstracting water in the Waimea water management zones, giving permit holders either high or low security of supply depending on whether they subscribe to the dam or not.

Early 2017

Tasman District Council and Waimea Irrigators Ltd advertise for expressions of interest from contractors as the first step in establishing the construction cost of the Waimea Community Dam.

Early 2017 – now

Work on commercial terms, funding sources and options for allocating the Council’s share among different groups of water users and ratepayers continues with the aim of having a robust proposal for later public consultation.

June 2017

NZIER updates its 2014 economic assessment, showing the benefits of the dam are even greater than earlier estimates.

November-December 2017

Council consulted with the community on a proposal for funding its share of the dam, including information on rate impacts, and the governance of the project. Hearings were held in December and the final decision was scheduled for early in 2018.

February 2018

Council approves the governance model and the mechanism of using a CCO to oversee and manage the Dam project.

April 2018

Waimea Irrigators Ltd closes its initial offer to purchase water shares, launched in March 2018. Later in the month it announces a successful capital raising effort of $16.5 million. The contribution for construction of the dam. More than 220 applicants sought to purchase water shares.

June 2018

Adoption of the Tasman District Council Long Term Plan 2018/28 that includes project funding. Adoption of the Nelson City Council Long Term Plan 2018/28 that includes project funding. Early Contractor Involvement process to conclude with a robust project price estimate. TRMP changes around the November 2018 water take rules expected to be filed.

August 2018

Formation of Waimea Water as a CCO to be finalised. Submission expected of the Local Bill to allow Tasman District Council access to land in Mount Richmond Forest Park for the purposes of constructing the Dam.

September 2018

Estimated timeframe for the financial close of the project, meaning all tasks have been completed and work is handed over to the CCO.

March 2019

Estimated timeframe for the approval of the Local Bill granting access to land that will form part of the dam reservoir.

See The Latest for the most recent developments on the Waimea Community Dam project.