5 Mar 2015

Delay in Ruataniwha dam deadline

2:19 pm on 5 March 2015

The company behind Hawkes Bay's Ruataniwha dam and irrigation project is having to delay the deadline for deciding whether it's financially viable.

The proposed Ruataniwha Dam would be built on this site in Hawke's Bay.

The proposed Ruataniwha Dam would be built on this site in Hawke's Bay. Photo: RNZ / Peter Fowler

The cut-off date was to be the end of this month.

But Hawkes Bay Regional Investment Company said it was now looking at pushing the deadline back, possibly to the end of June.

Chief executive Andrew Newman said the March deadline had been decided before a High Court appeal against the Board of Inquiry approval of the scheme and associated district plan changes.

The Court ordered the Board to reconsider a rule covering the level of nitrogen that's allowed to be discharged from farms in the Tukituki River catchment.

Mr Newman said that meant some delay while the Board of Inquiry worked through that process.

"We expect that all the parties have had a chance to comment on the various aspects of the High Court decision that required some reassessment and that included one of the rules in the plan change and also whether or not that had any influence on the consent conditions for the storage scheme.

"So that process is largely done and I guess the Board itself will spend a bit of time considering that and will issue a final decision, we expect sometime this month."

The decision making deadline also depended on the scheme having the financial backing it needed to proceed, and having enough farmers signed up to use the irrigation water.

The Investment Company was still looking for institutional backing after two major investors lined up for the project, Trust Power and Ngai Tahu, withdrew last year.

It said there were three institutional investors considering the scheme.

Mr Newman said their involvement would depend on the outcome of the appeal process and farmer commitment.

For the scheme to go ahead farmers needed to sign up to take at least 40 million cubic metres of water by the financial deadline.

The water contracts actually signed so far covered less than a quarter of that, but Mr Newman said there are a lot more in the pipeline.

"There are two ends of the uptake pipeline. We now have interested in just over 50 million cubic metres of water and that's a reasonably healthy number. At the other end, as of February, we had just under 10 million cubic metres of water counter-signed and I expect there will be a reasonably substantial lift in that number in March.

"So while it's relatively slow, it's certainly progressing and it's enough to give us a reasonable amount of encouragement that the demand is actually there."

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