10 Jun 2015

'Waiting game' for Wairarapa property owners

5:48 am on 10 June 2015

Wairarapa landowners say they're in limbo while they wait to hear whether major dam projects which would flood their properties will go ahead.

Dry farm land in Wairarapa, east of Masterton.

Dry farm land in Wairarapa, east of Masterton. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

On Monday, Wellington Regional Council announced two water storage options were being considered, at Black Creek and Tividale.

The schemes could together irrigate almost 30,000 hectares of land, alleviating ongoing drought threats and town water supply problems.

But they come at a social cost - 18 landowners would be likely to lose their properties at Black Creek and 11 at Tividale.

The proposed area for the Wairarapa irrigation schemes.

The proposed area for the Wairarapa irrigation schemes. Photo: Supplied

Mike Fairburn bought his land at the bottom of Black Creek two-and-a-half years ago.

He said his lifestyle property would be flooded if the dam was built.

While he accepted the dam would be for the greater good of the region, not knowing the future of his property was frustrating.

"The biggest problem is that uncertainty.

"I've got things I want to do to my house, but why would I if it's going to get purchased from under my feet in five years and I'm not recompensed for the improvements I've done," he said.

A Black Creek couple who own a lifestyle property said they were angry there was nothing on the land information memorandum, or LIM report, to suggest a dam was being planned, yet they were told about the possibility of it upon moving in by a neighbour.

The couple, who did not want to be named, have lived on their land for nine years.

They said could not plan ahead, so were using electric fencing instead of building permanent fences, and could not sell up, leaving them feeling stuck.

Mike Bennett lives at Mangatarere, which is no longer being considered for a dam site.

"Our homes are no longer under threat but it doesn't change the overview of how the project seems to be proceeding, how they're treating people, the surprises they spring on people, the lack of involvement and the lack of information that people get," he said.

Mr Bennett received an email informing him that his property was out of harm's way.

He said notifying those affected in Black Creek and Tividale by letter and telephone was poor.

Lifestyle block owner Peter Vallance runs a small flock of sheep and cattle on his Black Creek property. He said it was a waiting game for many now.

"I feel for our neighbours who are big farmers who have farmed there for generations and love farming and have won awards for their farming.

"For us it is different - we would probably look at moving anyway - but we would like to know where we stand and not be in limbo for a long time, that's all," he said.

It will be 18 months before any of the affected landowners have any certainty over their future, as a feasibility study will be carried out.

Wairarapa Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon said it was a particularly tough time ahead for farmers who could be affected.

"You can always up sticks in one place and move to another, it's just the same as owning a house and shifting.

"But it is more complicated in terms of finding something that is suitable to what you're used to farming, what you know and the experience you've got.

"There is some uncertainty and upheaval for those people and we need to be considerate of that," he said.

The Black Creek dam project will cost up to $205 million if it goes ahead and Tividale up to $105 million. The feasibility study is costing $4 million.

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