The Waimea Dam — we are getting it whether we need it or not!

Water Information Network Incorporated


Copies of The Waimea Dam by Dr John Robinson or of Politics, Process and the Waimea Dam by Murray Dawson can be emailed to you upon request please send email to

To contact WIN please email or post a message on our Facebook page. A recent radio interview on Fresh Fm - Elisabeth Siegmund's interview with Louise Coleman and Kevin Walmsley can be heard here

WIN has been formed to question the need for the Waimea Dam.

It's expensive, unnecessary and unfair.

  • Water Information Network — WIN — is a group of Tasman ratepayers who have serious concerns about the proposed Waimea Dam and question its necessity, science and cost.
  • WIN opposes ratepayer funding of the Dam as we cannot agree that a water augmentation scheme which principally benefits a small group of Waimea Plains irrigators has to be so heavily contributed to by all ratepayers of Tasman District Council (TDC) and New Zealand taxpayers.
  • The proposed $118 million is hugely expensive and likely to blow out as there seems to be little control over what is spent on this project.
  • International research by Oxford University shows that only 2% of dam projects are completed within budget.  Will this project be the exception to the rule?
  • TDC is committed to pick up the tab for all project cost overruns over $3 million.
  • A council review of water supply alternatives looked deliberately inflated in order to make the Dam option seem the least expensive option.
  • It is apparent that much of the published information is not accurate.
  • WIN hosted a series of well attended public meetings and obtained widespread support in attempts to circulate information about the dam.
  • TDC carried out a second Public Consultation process in late 2017 and received huge opposition to the Dam proposals.
  • WIN’s aim is to use this website to publish every unvarnished fact which the council neglects to tell us or misrepresents.
  • This will allow you, the ratepayer and voter, to make up your own mind about how millions of dollars of your money is proposed to be spent.
  • WIN believes that TDC does not command the majority community support for the Dam project.
  • At a public protest on 9 August 2018, hundreds of us demonstrated while the Mayor hid in Council Chambers. Aired on national news media, it has become apparent that local impartiality is being threatened with notable silences from several local newspapers. 

Who's Who on the Dam

CIIL — Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd — where the TDC guaranteed loans to WIL will come from.

CWL – Century Water Limited – a company formed by prominent irrigation interests to support the project and get it approved by TDC after the last cost blow-out.

CWS Advisory Group - members include a senior manager of a foreign owned corporation, the Director of a local survey firm, retired and active engineering consultancy employees. A special interest group some members of which have obvious biases and conflicts of interest.

DAMCO  - The interim name used to refer to the company formed to build, own and operate the dam.  Now synonymous with WWL.

FHTJV - The Fulton-Hogan / Taylor Contracting joint venture contracted to build the dam.

NCC — Nelson City Council — scheduled to contribute $5 million to the cost, despite cheaper options being available to supply users inside their boundary.

TDC — Tasman District Council — where your rates disappear. Well over 200 employees plus an unknown number of permanent contractors.

WWAC  -  A group representing some Waimea Plains irrigators which was formed in 2002.  Not a legal entity but a group of self-appointed members.  It developed the ‘dam package’ and presented it to Council as an ‘investment-ready package’.  It became inactive at the end of 2014 and was superseded by WCDL

WCDL —  Murray King and Julian Raine sheltering under the umbrella of a limited liability company.  WCDL applied for and got the Resource Consent to build the dam.  Now out of the picture.

WIL — Waimea Irrigators Ltd — the irrigators' company in which they buy water rights shares.

WWL — Waimea Water Ltd — the company jointly set up by TDC and WIL to build, own and operate the Dam.

WIN — Water Information Network Incorporated. That's us. Set up to provide you with the facts about the Waimea Dam.


The Waimea Dam is not needed.

Here’s why:


  • There is no need for more water Open or Close
    • Claims in support of the dam are based on an exaggerated future need for water. Current urban and industrial use is 12000 cubic metres/day. 30 year projected needs are 24000 (excluding Brightwater). Estimated water volume in the Waimea aquifers is estimated at 70 million cubic metres, with a minimum flow rate of 8.5 cubic metres/second. Current total pumpage from this is about 0.3 cubic metres/second - just 5% of the minimum flowrate. There are ample reserves for urban and industrial use today and for decades to come.
    • There is a case for more water security as an insurance policy against climate change for irrigators, but the answer is not an oversized Dam as their water requirement is only for low-rainfall periods in summer. Landowners may need to consider alternative land uses.
    • Irrigators and TDC are unclear if the Dam will provide water certainty in a once-in-40-year drought - essentially this ratepayer subsidised irrigator insurance scheme is a gamble. We pay for our insurance cover - WIL arguments that theirs should be paid for by ratepayers are disingenuous.
    • One thing is true — the water will not run out of the Dam and come out of your tap. It will continue to come out of boreholes and be piped through the reticulated system to your home, via the TDC filtration plant. The Dam merely adds another layer of expense for all ratepayers from Pakawau to south of the Shenandoah.
    • The Dam will not reduce the levels of pollutants in the Richmond urban water supply or the private bores on the Waimea Plains, which are already at dangerously high levels.  In fact it is likely to increase the levels with the intensification of horticulture that a surfeit of irrigation will inevitably produce.
    • The charges for the dam have been worked out so that ratepayers only get 15% of the water (at most) but pay 46% or more of the costs. This is completely unfair.
    • TDC has no responsibility whatsoever to provide businesses with raw materials, or subsidise them with ratepayers' money. Your money.
  • So there is no need for the Dam Open or Close
    • The science is incomplete and based upon a computer program to model the behavior of the water in the aquifers under the Waimea Plains.  The modelling has been shown to be unable to accurately predict the flow of water from the Waimea River into the aquifers.
    • The idea behind the Dam is that released water soaks into groundwater aquifers at times when river flows will be already low. This water movement into aquifers is neither proven nor quantifiable.
    • The water released from the Dam will not come out of your tap. It will continue to come out of boreholes, just as it does at present. The Dam merely adds another layer of expense to your already high water bills and rates.
    • Most of the water released from the Dam — around 95% — will just run straight out to sea, according to data from the TDC.
  • The Dam is far too expensive Open or Close
    • The 2015 estimated $82.5 million cost has now blown out to $108 million, and the Chair of WWL has warned us of “risks” to come.   We estimate that the project is already about 4 months behind what was already a very tight schedule; a very worrying sign.
    • But not to worry, former TDC CEO Lindsay McKenzie told councillors "It's just another set of figures," (which attitude perhaps explains why Tasman is so indebted).
    • TDC has stopped saying they have a 95% certainty (P95) of costs coming in on budget. They now say that the budget and the wafer-thin contingency are ‘adequate’.
    • Oxford University research shows that dams invariably cost far more than the budgeted figure. Of 245 dams studied, 4 were completed under or close to budget, and 4 were close to or more than a 1000% overrun. For a dam project the scale and complexity of the Waimea Dam the median overrun is 40%, and hence the P50 price is 1.4x the estimated cost. The P95 price for all dams studied is 4x the estimated cost.
    • If the Dam does increase to such sky-high limits, rates and water charges will increase accordingly because the irrigators' exposure to cost increases is limited only to a maximum of $3 million. Anything above that would on the present funding model have to come from the ratepayers and urban water users. 
    • Without consulting the ratepayers, TDC has accepted a break-fee of up to $50 million payable to WIL should TDC alter the water allocations to irrigators who have not bought shares in WIL.   This break fee can be triggered even if the dam does not get completed.
    • WIN's remains firmly of the view that on financial risk alone this Dam project should not have proceeded.
  • The deal favours irrigators, some of whom are extremely wealthy, and will cause genuine hardship to the less well-off Open or Close
    • Without a doubt this will cause real difficulty for over-stretched families at their financial limits, pensioners and those on fixed-incomes.
    • Not all irrigators are in favour of the Dam, because it will be unaffordable for some. This includes a number of growers with a few hectares, and lifestylers, who say they can handle existing water restrictions and affiliating to the Dam would just add on huge extra costs. Even if they don't affiliate to get water rights shares, their rates have now increased and will continue to. 
    • Every ratepayer in the so-called 'Zone of Benefit' will pay significantly higher water rates.
    • And we are not starting off from a cheap rating base, Tasman is the second highest rated authority outside Auckland.
    • Nor are we unbelievably wealthy, either. The medial annual income in Tasman is only $25,700. Nationally it's $28,500.
    • So WIN asks: how can TDC favour the larger irrigators over the less well-off? Or, for that matter, any ratepayer?
    • Council's first duty is to its ratepayers. Have councillors honestly looked at the financial implications they will impose on us ratepayers?
    • The major beneficiaries of the Dam are those with large irrigation needs - it will be worth millions to them.
  • The agreed share of costs is too disproportionate Open or Close
    • The proposed funding model is unfair. It would have ratepayers giving millions of dollars to subsidise irrigators.
    • Under the funding deal agreed with irrigators, they will pay not more than 49% of costs for at least 73%, and possibly as much as 83%, of the water.
    • Irrigators will need a $22.1 million loan. This comes at a cheaper interest rate because it will be guaranteed by the council, meaning us ratepayers. And if irrigators default, we pay up.
    • We don’t understand this at all. Because TDC has no obligation to provide irrigators with subsidised water.
    • And to date, nearly every irrigation project in New Zealand has been paid for wholly by irrigators, not ratepayers.
  • Council’s financial management of the Dam is questionable Open or Close
    • No proper independent cost-benefit analysis has been undertaken.
    • Tasman District Council has debt of $122 million, along with a new demand of $22 million for district-wide water infrastructure, this makes the Dam costs unviable.
    • Damage from natural events last year caused massive damage - repairing a dam after a catastrophic event will break the bank.
    • TDC  spent around $10 mllion before the project got under way, confident that they could force the Dam project through, despite ratepayer objections. The official number, $6.1m was artificially low and WIN believes forensic accounting would see this number more in line with reality.
    • Rates will increase by far more than the council say. The $29 per annum rated by the council could become $93 because the extra will come from council CCTO (council-controlled trading organisations) such as Port Nelson and Nelson Airport profits being diverted to pay for Dam loans, rather than being used to keep down rate increases.
  • The Dam’s location could be dangerous due to seismic activity Open or Close
    • The proposed Dam position carries a high seismic risk, particularly after the November 2017 earthquake. Several changes have been made to the design and it continues to be of concern.
    • The location is between two active faults: the Alpine and Waimea-Flaxmore.
    • GNS Science repeatedly warn us that the Alpine Fault has a high probability of rupturing within the life of the Waimea Dam, producing a magnitude 8 earthquake.
    • Brightwater is particularly at risk in the event of a catastrophic rupture of the proposed dam.
    • At the junction of SH6 and Ellis Street, consulting engineer computer modelling forecasts a 2.5 metre high wave of water passing through.
    • Brightwater Primary School, with over 300 pupils, is at this junction and they will have a 20 minute warning to evacuate.
    • None of the potential effect on Brightwater, incidentally, is mentioned in the Waimea Irrigators Limited share prospectus (PDS). Does that tell you anything about the concern that irrigators have for the community?
  • Many Dam engineering issues are expensive unknowns Open or Close
    • The joint venture contractor proposes to clear the reservoir by shredding the bushes, shrubs, detritus and stumps and stockpiling the material to decompose.  If it does not catch fire, or get washed down the river in a flood, this will have to be removed from the area prior to the reservoir filling.
    • The costs of sediment removal and final decommissioning of the dam have not been included in the estimates.
    • Only half of the estimated final cost is fixed.  The remainder is subject to a final measure or subject to future agreement.
    • It has been assumed that sufficient quantities of rock fill of suitable quality is available within the dam environs.  This may not prove to be the case.
    • Extensive grouting of pervious material under the dam and in the dam abutments will be required.  This cost of this can only be guessed.
    • It is unclear who will carry the cost of flood damage to the works which occurs during construction.  There is a very high probability of this happening repeatedly.
  • The Dam may not contribute to economic growth Open or Close
    • Tasman District is growing economically, principally through construction and tourism.
    • Agricultural hectarage as a whole on the Waimea Plain has seen dairy reduce dramatically. Pipfruit is static; hops and vines are increasing. Hops and vines require far less water than many other plants. Agriculture and horticulture on the Waimea Plains contributes only about 2% to the regional GDP.
    • Principally, the Dam could only economically affect pipfruit, berry, viticulture and horticulture sectors. Even so, these units survive with their present water allocations because they either match their hectarages or are over-allocated.
    • Presumably then, any additional water would only be needed for previously non-irrigated land into which they would expand their businesses.
    • However, these would be commercial decisions, which are no responsibility of the council to support. So why is the council involved in the first place? We think it’s the power of the relatively few major irrigators. Many smallholders and lifestyle block owners don't want the dam because it's a comparatively major expense for them to affiliate at $5,850 a hectare.
    • For their scale, these hectarages actually employ relatively few full-time employees.
    • Many are foreign seasonal workers for whom the council has no responsibility. 
    • The drought of 2019 was the worst to hit the district for 45 years.  But it was a bumper season for apples, a great season for berries, a record season for hops and probably an excellent vintage.  This calls into question the whole of the economic 'analysis' used by the dam-promoters to justify their dam.
  • Water conservation should be an important issue Open or Close
    • In just three days’ heavy rain in January 2018, 1½ times the dam’s projected 13.4 million cubic metres fell across the whole Waimea Plain. How about irrigators saving some of that?
    • Irrigators waste a proportion of their water allocations and this should be stopped.
    • Water allocations should be re-evaluated.
    • Water conservation on the Waimea Plain should be encouraged, not ignored. We have been practicing it already and with the proper support from Council, can be effective.
    • Conservation would be the cheapest and best option for all water users.
    • Council's first job should be to fix the leaks in the system and stop trying to convince us us that the main losses are "Non-Revenue Water", that include fire use, swimming pools.
  • The Dam could become heavily foreign-invested Open or Close
    • WIL sold 3045 shares in its float at $5,850 each and each share allows water consent holders to take 300 cubic metres of water per hectare per week. 
    • However, you didn't need to be an irrigator to buy these shares, nor was the amount of shares any irrigator could purchase limited to the number of hectares they owned or intended to irrigate. Thus there is an overhang of “dry” shares which is likely to lead to speculation in WIL shares.
    • What makes this offer so attractive to any investor is that ratepayers will contribute throughout the life of the Dam.
    • Through council negotiation with irrigators, ratepayers further support them by guaranteeing up to $25 million in loans at a favourable rate.
    • WIL's PDS stated a forecast of share price increasing by 15% after launch and by a further 2% per annum.
    • WIN understands that foreign investors, and the NZ Superannuation fund have already invested in major Waimea Plains growers.
    • It's bad enough that your hard-earned money is propping up irrigators, let alone potentially benefitting foreign and domestic investors.
    • Neither should have any claim whatsoever on your rates money, so why did TDC do this? 
    • Over the life of the Dam it will mean millions and millions in subsidies from the rates.
    • It will be paid for by you, your children and maybe your grandchildren.

Stop work on the Dam.



It is not council's job to subsidise businesses, so why should major growers with big irrigation needs get millions in subsidies, paid for by ratepayers?

Not all irrigators are in favour of the Dam. Many with smaller hectarages, as well as those with lifestyle blocks, are concerned that the high investment cost of nearly $6,000 per hectare could be financially crippling.

The less well-off will struggle to make rate payments or pay increased rent (which, of course, includes rates) as their rates go to subsidise some rich growers getting richer.

Every dollar paid by ratepayers for the dam is a dollar in subsidy to irrigators. This is wrong. 

All WIN asks for is a fair deal for the majority.

WIN 2019 TDC Candidate Survey


Here are the results of our survey of the mayoral and ward candidates for the TDC election.

We asked all candidates the following questions:-

Can you please reply to this email indicating whether you would vote for or against, or if you are undecided, on the following issues, should you be elected ?

1) The mayor having a casting vote
2) Council workshops being open except where matters of commercial confidentiality or personal privacy
are clearly involved
3) Workshops being publicised in advance in accordance with LGOIMA
4) Waimea Water Ltd to comply with all conditions of the Resource Consent including removal of all
vegetation, mulched or otherwise, from the reservoir basin
5) Apportioning the costs of budget overruns between TDC and WIL in proportion to their shareholdings
6) Apportioning the dam operating costs on a more equitable basis

We allowed 2 weeks for the candidates to answer, and then followed up with a reminder for the half that had not answered. We ended up with only 21 replies from the 34 candidates. Oh well, as the Germans say, “No answer is also an answer.”

The answers we were looking for were ‘Against’ for the 1st question, and ‘For’ for the other 5.

We marked the replies out of a possible 10 as follows.
- Candidates who handed in the test with their name correctly spelt got 4 marks
- Plus 1 mark for each question answered correctly and unequivocally
- Plus ½ mark for each question answered ‘undecided’ or answered conditionally or unclearly

The results were:-
Maxwell Clark 10
Brent Maru 10
Dean McNamara 10
Tim King 0

Maxwell Clark 10
Mark Greening 10
Stan Holland 10
Peter Lynch 10
Gary Watson 9
Maurice White 9
Kit Maling 0
Trevor Tuffnell 0
Dana Wensley 0

Paul Dixon-Didier 9
Claire Hutt 9
Trindi Walker 9
Barry Dowler 0
Trevor Norriss 0
David Ogilvie 0

Richard Johns 10
Dean McNamara 10
Elisabeth Siegmund 10
Anne Turley 10
Jennifer Beatson 9.5
Hayden Stevenson 9.5
Julian Eggers 9
Julie Nevin 8.5
Don Everitt 0
Christeen Mackenzie 0

Golden Bay
Reg Turner 10
Chris Hill 9.5
Kaya Blown 9
Celia Butler 8.5
Sue Brown 0
Paul Sangster 0

Stuart Bryant 0

Frequently Asked Questions.

About the Waimea Dam.

  • What’s this Dam thing all about? Open or Close
    • Large irrigators say they need a water supply guaranteed free from drought for the future.
    • They have persuaded TDC that a dam is the answer.
    • The proposed dam would hold 13.4 million cubic metres of water at an estimated cost $108 million
    • Irrigators do not want to pay their share of the cost so have persuaded TDC that the cost should be shared.
    • NCC has voted to contribute and local MP Nick Smith chipped in from the previous Government for "freshwater improvement".
  • Here’s the deal: Open or Close
    • Irrigators will use over 80% of the water but only pay 49% of the build cost.
    • TDC urban/commercial use is 9.9% of the water but will pay 43% or more of the total build cost.
    • NCC use 7.8% of the water and contribute up to $5 million.
    • The Waimea Dam would be only one of two irrigation projects in New Zealand that has irrigators not paying in full for their water.
    • If the Dam is built, TDC ratepayers will subsidise irrigators to the tune of at least $42 million plus annual operating expenses.
    • NCC will soon be providing water to Nelson South households (those between Saxton’s field and Champion Rd). These are currently being supplied by TDC, as is the now defunct apple cannery in Nayland Rd.
  • Who will benefit from the dam? Open or Close
    • TDC suggest that it will be the irrigators, urban water users, the river network and wildlife. But it won’t be.
    • This is because TDC have skewed the facts so much that the ratepayers have been given false benefits and will also pay an imaginary environmental cost.
    • Release from the dam will be insufficient to flush away the toxic blue / green algae, nor will if flush out the nitrate contamination in the aquifers under the Waimea Plain.
    • Irrigators end up with hugely greater benefits, the cost of which is loaded onto ratepayers.
    • Every ratepayer in the district, from Murchison to Tapawera, from Takaka to Collingwood, will pay.
    • The council have no liability or obligation to pay for river flow. Nor to charge us ratepayers for it.
  • How will it be paid for? Open or Close
    • Irrigators raised $17.8 million from share purchase in WIL.
    • A further $10.8 million was stumped up by 13 prominent families to get the project over the line after the Council voted 8:6 to withdraw from the project.
    • WWL will be owned jointly by WIL (49%) and TDC (51%). It will be a ‘not for profit’ company. In the case of a default by WIL or significant cost overrun then TDC will own a higher %age of WWL.
    • TDC will put $41.32 million into the venture ($31.32 million plus an interest-free loan of $10 million).
    • WIL also requires a loan of $22.12 million from CIIL which will be guaranteed by TDC (i.e. us ratepayers).
    • The actual loan could climb to $25 million and together with other costs could amount to a total of $29 million, when insurance and other items are added in.
    • TDC say the profit from council-owned companies like Nelson Airport and Port Nelson will go to paying off the loan. But those profits are already pledged to keep rate increases down. You can’t spend the money twice, so it will have to be paid by ratepayers.
  • Can the council afford the Dam? Open or Close
    • No. They are about $122 million in debt at the moment.
    • They have borrowed $1 million (or more? It's difficult to pin down exactly how much) to pay for some of the preliminary works on the Dam.
    • The Dam will add another $36 million or more.
    • A further $22 million or more is also required to update water supplies across the district, not including proposals to update Motueka reticulation.
    • Plus all the clean-up costs from the recent cyclones Fehi and Gita...
    • Assuming this is all borrowed, the total debt owed by ratepayers will go up to $180 million.
  • What if costs blow out? Open or Close
    • Additional costs up to $3 million are shared equally between WIL and TDC ratepayers.
    • Any additional costs above that are to be paid by TDC ratepayers alone and not shared with WIL.
    • The P95 estimate of $82.5 million as of 5 July 2018 has already blown out to $108 million.
    • 98% of all dam projects overrun the estimated cost; we expect that this project will be no exception.
    • All recent NCC and TDC projects have overrun their budget.  This includes the Mapua Redevelopment, the Trafalgar Centre upgrade, the Velodrome, the Stoke Rec Centre, the Queen St upgrade and the Bateup Rd upgrade.  The Waimea Dam project is far riskier than any of those projects, so again we expect that this project will be no exception.
  • I have to use my house as security for loans, why can’t the irrigators do the same? Why use TDC's ratepayer collateral to guarantee it? Open or Close
    • Good question; we think this would be illegal.
    • And what does it say about the wealthy irrigators of WIL who won’t back their own judgement?
  • But this is a big Dam with a 95% expectation of coming in on budget. Surely their experts can contain the costs? Open or Close
    • No, again. It’s a problem with dam construction. An Oxford University study shows that, worldwide, Dams come in on average 96% over budget. And the bigger the dam the bigger the likely percentage blowout !
    • The July 2018 estimate was quoted as a P95.  TDC is silent as regard the “P” for the current estimate of $108 million, and refuses to release a copy of the independent estimate done in 2018.  As the German’s say, “No answer is also an answer”, so we have every reason to believe the rumours that the independent estimate is much higher than $108 million.
    • TDC want the Dam so badly, they need ratepayers to believe this fairy story, then they’ll wring their hands when the costs double and blame everything and everyone but themselves.
  • Were there alternatives? Open or Close
    • There were, because there is no guarantee that water released by the dam will go into the aquifers and not just run out to sea.
    • Also, we do not need 13.4 million cubic metres of water storage. Less than half that would see us through any drought.
    • Bear in mind the water is only going to be released from the dam with the hope of some of it soaking through into groundwater (the aquifers).
    • This scheme will not reduce the concentration of nitrates in the groundwater and hence in the Richmond urban water supply.  In fact it may make the problem worse.  Long-term ingestion of nitrates in drinking water has recently been proven to significantly increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer, which kills 1200 New Zealanders every year.
  • What if irrigators default? Open or Close
    • TDC has guaranteed all WIL’s loans from CIIL.
    • If arrears occur, CIIL the lender will come straight back to TDC to demand the arrears.
    • If arrears become really large, CIIL can come back and demand the entire loan be repaid by TDC.
    • The very heart of the matter is that the irrigators have great influence with the council.
    • They do not wish to pay the full cost of augmenting their water supply and have persuaded TDC to contribute ratepayers’ money.
    • Which means that irrigators won’t pay their fair share.; so you’ll pay it for them
  • Will ratepayers pay 51% of costs the costs for 9.9% of the water. That’s not fair! Open or Close
    • Through discussions over many years the solution to future water security challenges has become seen to be a dam.
    • The initial public consultation TDC conducted in 2014 was not to explain about water augmentation but to present funding models to pay for the dam.
    • This contained, and still contains to this day, a disproportionately high percentage of total costs being allocated to ratepayers.
    • Ratepayers overwhelmingly rejected the 2017 consultation.  The consultation document issued by TDC presented out-of-date and incomplete information, the omission of which made the dam project look far more attractive.
  • The biggest irrigators are very wealthy. Can't they pay for their own irrigation? Open or Close
    • There are about 30 or so major beneficiaries of the dam’s $$millions. These include the wealthiest families across the Waimea Plain.
    • If you are not happy for TDC to subsidise them to the tune of millions of dollars, then vote accordingly at the upcoming Council election.
    • They don’t pay for your employers’ raw materials so they should not pay for irrigators’ water, their most basic raw material.
  • Irrigators won’t pay their fair share. So you’ll pay it for them Open or Close
    • The very heart of the matter is that the irrigators have great influence with the council.
    • They do not wish to pay the full cost of augmenting their water supply and have persuaded TDC to contribute ratepayers’ money.
  • Has the council actually decided to subsidise the irrigators? With our rates? Open or Close
    • Yes. They have mistakenly decided to support irrigators with your rates money.
    • They have no legal obligation to do this or to maintain the health of the river using flow augmentation. If you are unhappy about this, then vote accordingly at the upcoming Council election.
  • Do we have to pay? And how much? Open or Close
    • Yes, you will have to pay and pay and pay.
    • Because TDC have said the cost will be funded via the rates and increased water charges.
    • They say only $29 per household across the district, but it will be more if you live close to the Waimea Plain. And if you live on the plain there will be an extra rate charge based on your property’s capital value.
    • And this will be on top of any rate increases because your new rateable value has increased.
    • This won’t give you any extra or different or better water to what you get at the moment.
    • So your rates will just go up because of the dam.
  • But we’ll get our water from the dam. Surely that’s worthwhile? Open or Close
    • Not really. If you are on Richmond urban reticulated supply, the water you get will be exactly the same as you get now.
    • It will come from a borehole and be treated with chlorine or UV.
    • It will have the same contaminants picked up as it travels through the aquifers under the land used for horticulture and agriculture, including nitrates which are known to increase the risk of cancer.  Other probable toxic contaminants, but at low concentrations, include agrichemicals and the heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, copper, chromium and cadmium.
    • You’ll just be paying more for the same. Over $2 for 1,000 litres.
    • Irrigators would pay about 6.8 cents for their 1,000 litres. Sweet deal!
  • The ‘Zone of Benefit’ — for whose benefit? Open or Close
    • The ‘Zone of Benefit’ is the area of the Waimea Plains that TDC deems will get the benefit of increased security of water supply when the Waimea Dam is operational. This area will be subjected to an increased rate based on the property’s rateable value.
    • TDC has moved the goalposts to capture more rates by shifting the boundary of the ‘Zone of Benefit’ to several areas that were previously outside the Zone.
    • Curiously, land owned in Eve’s Valley by the Kempthorne and King families is not in the ‘Zone of Benefit’.
    • We understand that TDC intends to include Wakefield in the ‘Zone of Benefit.
  • Isn't the place it's planned to go earthquake-prone? Open or Close
    • Yes. In a seismically active area, a dam here should be a last choice.
  • Setting the rules to suit the dam Open or Close
    • The minimum flow rates and rationing triggers have been concocted by TDC in order to steer thinking towards a dam being the only answer to their draconian water restrictions.
  • Irrigators waste water Open or Close
    • Irrigators have been the biggest wasters of water. If they had to pay the same as those on the reticulated scheme, this would not happen.
  • What about water conservation Open or Close
    • There has never been any water conservation in the Waimea Plain.
    • Since the 2001 drought TDC have had 17 years to implement conservation measures but not even a modicum of progress has been undertaken in this regard.
    • As an example, the rain falling on the Waimea Plain on three days between January 11th and 15th this year was enough to fill the dam 1½ times over.
    • Now why can’t some of that water be saved?
  • How much has been spent so far? Open or Close
    • Lots. The dam has been spend, spend, spend – July 2018 estimates put direct costs prior to commencement of the project at $10 million but we just don't know, because the mayor "is not into that detail" either.
    • We believe it was substantially more than that but only forensic accounting scrutiny can tell us. A former councillor who was Chair of the TDC finance committee balked at signing off the 2016 accounts because of fudging.
    • Since project commencement about another $10 million has been spent.  And the difficult and expensive work hasn’t started yet!
    • A fundamental problem for TDC was that they spent so much on preparation then felt committed. The “sunk costs fallacy” as Lindsay McKenzie, former TDC CEO, so succinctly put it.
    • TDC has shown no sign of acting conservatively or prudently on spending when it comes to the dam.
  • What about the nitrates? Open or Close

    Nitrates in the Water supply -  What We Know

    • TDC obtains the water for Richmond from two borefields; the Richmond bores and the Waimea bores.
    • The Richmond bores are contaminated with nitrates to the point of being unfit for human consumption.  The sources of the contamination are animal excrement and nitrogenous fertilisers from agricultural land south of the bores.

    • The Waimea bores have quite low levels of nitrate contamination.

    • Up until the Richmond Water Treatment plant was commissioned in 2015, the Richmond bores supplied the Richmond urban area, and the Waimea bores supplied the industrial area; Nelson Pine, Alliance and Turners & Growers.

    • TDC now works around the nitrate problem by blending water from the two borefields so that the nitrate concentration is approximately 5 mg / L nitrate-N which is well below the NZDWS limit of 11.3 mg / L and the US EPA limit of 10 mg / L   There is no factor-of-safety in that limit2.

    • Those limits are set to prevent methaemoglobinaemia  –  blue baby syndrome.

    • Water containing nitrates at concentrations above 10 mg / L should not be consumed during pregnancy nor by infants under 6 months old.

    • Many private bores on the Waimea Plain east of the river are known to have levels of nitrate contamination well above this limit.

    • A very recent Danish report1, involving a study of the medical and residence records of 1.7 million people, shows that there is a link between the long-term consumption of water that is contaminated with nitrates and an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.

    • Colorectal cancer kills approximately 1200 people in NZ every year.

    • The study showed that those who consumed water with nitrate-N concentrations above 0.9 mg / L showed a “statistically significant” increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer, and that for the group who consumed water at nitrate concentrations between 3.8 and 11.3 mg / L that incidence was 16% higher than the group who consumed water with the lowest concentrations.

    • In Richmond, we have the bizarre situation where the water least likely to be contaminated with nitrates, that taken from the Waimea River at Max’s Bush, is used for irrigation, and the water that is highly contaminated with nitrates is used for the reticulated urban supply.

    • We do not believe that the commissioning of the Waimea Dam will reduce the nitrate concentration in the aquifers from where the water for Richmond is currently drawn.  95% or more of the water released from the Waimea Dam will flow down the river to the sea.

    • We recommend that those with private household bores on the Waimea Plains follow the advice from Canterbury Regional Council which you can download from here LINK.  We can find no such advice on the TDC website.

    • We recommend that those living in Richmond who have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, for example if they have already had it, or if they have close relatives who have had it, to seek medical advice.

    • The water supply north of Saxton Field is from Nelson City and it has very low concentrations of nitrates.  Rainwater has no nitrate contamination, but it can contain biological contaminants from the surfaces on which it falls.

      1 Nitrate in drinking water and colorectal cancer risk: A nationwide population-based cohort study   Schullehner et al   Int J Cancer 143
      2 Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater – Summary - EPA



    mg / L - milligram / litre or parts per million (ppm)

    nitrate – N - nitrate concentration expressed as the mass of elemental nitrogen

    nitrate – NO3 - nitrate concentration expressed as the mass of the nitrate ion (=  4.4 x nitrate – N)

    NZDWS - New Zealand Drinking Water Standards

    EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

  • What about the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and Chief Executive? Open or Close
    • These people are gambling your money on this dam being the right choice for the future. It is not.
    • They have preferred a scheme offering multi-million dollar subsidies to irrigators at the expense of ratepayers.
    • This does not accord with their legal obligation to those who voted them in or pay their wages.
    • The financial record is poor. Under Mayor Kempthorne debt has soared. This has been criticised by central government, yet they show no concern to limit expenditure. 
    • WIN believes that we desperately need some new faces around the Council table; that the old-boy network needs to go.  You the voters will have you say on election day.The Chief Executive retired in 2018, giving a hospital pass to his replacement.
  • What happened at the protest? You! Open or Close

    Hundreds of you answered the call, and for that we are humbly grateful.

    The mayor would do well to note that God is on our side and even turned on some of the weather we are rightly famous for - not that he'd know as he kept safely inside so as not to hear the absolute racket that was being made against progressing the dam.

    Thank you to the speakers who eloquently made their points, and to you for turning out to hear them.

    On the day, Radio NZ and TV One ran news stories about the protest - with local champions of the free press, the Golden Bay Weekly having their usual field-day with the topic.

    Unfortunately, other local newspapers were conspicuous in their silence -  astounding given the widely publicised and nationally newsworthy nature of the event and suggesting that if they have not been bought, they have been influenced.

    A subsequent meeting of the Council voted 8:6 to withdraw from the project. 

    The project was resuscitated by a consortium of major irrigators stumping up another $10 million.

  • Open correspondence - Letters to Janine Dowding TDC CEO Open or Close

    Open letter to TDC CEO
    26 Sep 2019

    Dear Ms Dowding

    The Local Government Act states that a local authority must be transparent and open with its ratepayers. When items of high interest, especially those that pose significant financial risk to ratepayers, are hidden from ratepayers, then action must be taken to protect them.

    It is now public knowledge that, under your management, Tasman District Council deliberately concealed a substantial financial risk to ratepayers - the $50m Council Compensation Events term. If triggered, it has the potential to place a significant financial burden on ratepayers and compromise TDC’s Long Term Plan.

    Your recent press conference with Mayor Kempthorne and Corporate Services Manager Drummond confirms that TDC negotiated and approved the term without public consultation, that this funding term was essential in the Waimea Dam project in order to protect a select group of Waimea ratepayers (Waimea Irrigators Limited) over all other Tasman ratepayers, and that the TDC will not fully disclose its details.

    Requests have been sent to the Ombudsman and the Auditor General to investigate complaints relating to TDC’s refusal to release details of the $50m Council Compensation Events term. They will decide in due course whether to pursue the matter. Full disclosure of term details will determine whether TDC’s management acted within its statutory duties.

    You therefore face a choice whether to provide Tasman ratepayers with full disclosure of the $50m Compensation Events term or to continue to spend more ratepayers’ money to conceal it from the public.

    Kevin Walmsley

    Dear Ms Dowding
    30 Sep 2019

    Any dam over 4 metres high is a building in terms of the Building Act and so requires a Building Consent from Tasman District Council.

    In Dec 2018 TDC's Environment and Planning Manager invoked an obscure clause in the Building Act and granted Waimea Water Ltd an exemption from the requirement to obtain a Building Consent for the construction of the Waimea Dam.

    TDC would normally be responsible to ensure that a building is built in accordance with the plans and specifications and that it complies with all relevant codes.

    WIN believes that TDC has in this case evaded its responsibility to the ratepayers of Tasman in general and the residents of Brightwater in particular. Further, WIN believes that in the case of a project as controversial and as politically sensitive as the Waimea Dam, a decision to exempt the dam owner from the requirement to obtain a Building Consent should have been taken by the full Council in open session.

    WIN is not aware of any councillors who knew of the exemption prior to 22 Sep 2019. Certainly, prior to that date Cr McNamara and Cr Turley were completely unaware of this exemption being granted.

    Addendum 1

    As an addendum to my letter, I am investigating this further.
    Dennis Bush-KIng assumed that the design of the dam complies with the NZSOLD Guidelines for large dams.
    I believe that it does not comply with the NZSOLD Guidelines. The Guidelines recommend that all embankment dams have an auxiliary spillway - and the Waimea Dam will not have one.
    I am still investigating this and will get back to you before the end of the week.

    Addendum 2 - 1 Oct
    The Chair of NZSOLD has clarified this very promptly.
    An auxiliary spillway is not necessary where the primary spillway can safely pass the Design Flood and where there is no risk of blockage of the primary spillway.
    I believe that there is little doubt that the primary spillway of the Waimea Dam can safely pass such a flood.
    The T & T design did have an upper spillway bridge with a support at mid-span, which would cause some concerns regarding possible blockage. I believe that this bridge has been deleted, but I have not been able to confirm this as WWL has denied me access to the for-construction drawings. IF it has been deleted, or IF the upper bridge now spans the spillway with sufficient clearance and without intermediate support, then I accept that an auxiliary spillway is not essential.

    Lewis H Solomon
    Water Information Network Inc 

Together we are succeeding.

Questions about the dam continue to be asked - and nobody for the dam can answer them.

Our work and your pressure was instrumental in getting the Councillors to vote  8:6 against the dam.  This was only turned around when a group of prominent irrigators got together and stumped up another $10 million. 

We are committed to getting a fair deal for ratepayers and holding to account those who got us into this mess.   We have a lot of work to do, and we need your help. Donations are always welcome to bank account  02 - 0747 – 0075238 - 000.

WIN members have been busy getting out information which the pro-dammers want to keep hidden.  Much of this is in Murray Dawson’s excellent book, but it also includes:-

  • The scandal of Pat Dougherty’s employment contract and how the NCC spin-doctor was given the task of ‘reconstructing’ it.
  • The hidden fish-hooks of the $50 million break-fee.
  • The still highly redacted Damwatch report on the TDC – FHTJV contracts with the missing ‘Table of Risks’
  • Members are still striving to bring to light an unredacted copy of the Term Sheets which set out the conditions of the CIIL loans to TDC and WIL.
  • Members are still waiting for the 2018 report of the independent estimator, which is rumoured to estimate the cost of the dam build as $140 million.
  • We have asked for a copy of the employment contract of Lindsay McKenzie, former TDC Chief Executive.
  • A member has set up a companion website
  • Members have been pursuing the scandal of the contamination of the aquifers under the Waimea Plains with TDC and Nelson Marlborough District Health.
  • And members have made many complaints to the Ombudsman regarding the concealment of information and to the Auditor-General regarding abuse of process.’