FAQ

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1. Do we need the Waimea Dam?

Water in the Waimea Plains has been heavily over-allocated. Water restrictions have been required nearly every summer since 2001. Minimum water flows need to be maintained in the Waimea River for ecological, cultural, and recreational values. Recently, central government has required regional councils to do this as per the National Policy Statement for Fresh Water. Minimum flows cannot be achieved under the existing water allocation regime. Without the dam, more severe restrictions will come into force by November 2018.

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2. Are ratepayers subsidising private irrigators?

Urban water users, industrial users, farmer/irrigators, lifestylers, and others who pump groundwater from the Waimea aquifer (which is just about everyone in the Nelson Richmond area) rely on the same source of water – the aquifer.

A lot of work has been undertaken to ensure the Dam has a fair funding model for everyone. In the proposed model, Waimea Plains’ irrigators pay the largest amount for the Dam’s construction, nearly half.

Tasman District Council’s contribution (from ratepayers) is about one-third. It will help secure the urban water supply for a growing population. Importantly, it also pays for improvements to the health and water flow levels of the Waimea River.

The Ministry for the Environment has granted $7 million toward the dam’s costs as well, which pays for improvements to the river’s health. The Waimea Community Dam is the only solution to our water supply and river health problems that includes sharing costs and private investment.

By sharing the costs, the dam is cheaper for everyone.

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3. Who decides if the Dam goes ahead?

Tasman District Council has already confirmed a contribution of up to $25 million in the LTP 2015-25 for the Dam. Next it will decide on the governing structure for the Dam and how Council will fund its overall contribution. This will be the subject of further consultation with the community in late 2017. The final decisions will be made by Council after the consultation phase has been completed.

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3. Are the cost estimates for the Dam accurate?

While there is never any guarantee that a construction estimate is ‘perfect’, there have been many engineering assessments over recent years of the costs associated with building the dam. These estimates are based on a high expectation of being correct - far above the typical estimates you might see in other construction projects.

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5. Can Tasman District Council afford to pay for the Dam?

The current funding plan sees Waimea Irrigators paying for approximately half of the cost of the dam ($37 million), with the remaining half being paid for by a combination of central government ($7 million via the Freshwater Improvement Fund grant), Nelson City Council ($5-8 million requested), and Tasman District Council (approx. $26.8 million).

Current estimates by Council indicate its cost contribution will fit comfortably within its overall borrowing limit of $200 million, as well as within its annual approximately $30 million capital works budget.

TDC’s contribution would also help to pay for the environmental benefit of a healthier river throughout the entire Waimea plains area.

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4. Can we solve the problem by being more efficient with our water use?

Council staff and other external analysts have studied the benefits which could be achieved by greater water conservation efforts. While there are savings to be made with such efforts, they will not in themselves be enough to solve the region’s water problems. Also, water conservation efforts will not help improve the minimum flows in the Waimea River, which is a crucial problem the Council needs to address.

The Waimea Community Dam captures rainwater run-off in wetter periods, and recharges the Waimea aquifer and Waimea River in dryer times. It is designed to supplement individual efforts to conserve and more wisely use water – a precious resource for all of us

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5. Will the dam impact water quality and swimming sites?

The water to be released by the Dam will be higher quality than water flowing from other dams in the area because of its geological foundation. The Dam will sit on a particularly good base of stable rock and there are lower levels of organic matter in the water of the reservoir. (The Maitai Reservoir has a different geological foundation that affects the stored water differently.)

The Dam will also improve water quality and swimming sites by maintaining regular flows that flush water through the system. The minimum flow rate of the river will mean the river is healthier and better able to be used and enjoyed by recreational users, and it will be a healthier environment for aquatic life.

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6. How will the dam affect river habitat?

The Dam will submerge some river and riparian habitat, but these will be replaced by new lake habitat. The resource and environmental consents for the Dam require regular monitoring of water quality levels as well as restoration and re-establishment of various native plant-life in the area.

The Dam is located in the best possible place. The upper Lee Valley has a rock foundation feature which makes it perfect for building a Dam on, with limited risk to the environment.

Because the Dam interacts with the Waimea aquifers in a particular way, it enables the efficient recharge of underground water on a regular basis while still protecting the environmentally beneficial flows of water in the river itself.

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