The Waimea Community Dam project in Tasman has yet again become the subject of controversy, with questions raised over its risk to ratepayers in the future.
Work to build the 53-metre-high concrete-face rock filled dam is underway, with Waimea Water Ltd aiming to have it finished and filled up by February 2022.
The $104.4 million dam is being paid for through a partnership between irrigators, Tasman District Council, Nelson City Council, and central government grant and loan funding.
Local resident Kevin Walmsley recently shared details of the project’s agreement terms, released to him under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, which cites a clause that could lead to the council being liable for costs of up to $50 million.
He called for the clause to be removed from the dam’s contracts to “protect ratepayers funds”.
At a press conference held today in response to concerns, Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the $50 million wasn’t a “liability” to council but a “fallback provision in case council acts to undermine the partnership” it has with irrigators.
“Any reasonable person would say that there should be consequences to breaking an agreement where significant investment has been made,” he said.
One way the clause could be triggered would be if the council made changes to the water rights of irrigators who are investing in the dam.