Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill

Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill

Local Bill

95—2

As reported from the Governance and Administration Committee

Commentary

Recommendation

The Governance and Administration Committee has examined the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill and recommends that it be passed with the amendments shown.

Introduction

The Tasman District Council intends to implement the Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme to ensure the security of water supply from the Waimea River catchment. The scheme involves the construction of a dam to allow storage and control of 13.4 million cubic metres of water.

Demand for water, particularly during extreme drought, can lead to unacceptable environmental effects. The scheme would provide water supply for domestic and commercial users in the Waimea Plains and Mapua areas. Resource consents and funding are in place for the scheme.

This bill would facilitate the transfer of two land rights to enable the scheme to proceed:

  • The transfer of Crown land to the Council consisting of 1.3516 hectares of riverbed. It is intended that the dam will be built on this riverbed land.

  • The right, via an easement, to flood 9.7 hectares of conservation land.

Submissions on the bill

The committee received 137 written submissions and travelled to Richmond to hear orally from 26 submitters. These included submissions of support from the Tasman District Council and Nelson City Council, Waimea Irrigators Ltd, nine representatives from industry and 20 farmers and orchardists. Most of the submissions opposed were from individual residents and ratepayers. Not all landowners and orchardists were in favour of the scheme due to the cost.

The evidence that the Waimea catchment has a significant water problem over minimum flows and water quality, and that the dam was the best solution, was strong. This position was supported by the technical evidence from respected organisations like Fish and Game, Tonkin and Taylor, Cawthron Institute, and the council’s water quality scientists. It was also reinforced by submissions from Andrew Fenemer, a respected land-care scientist, and Dr Morgan William, former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. We did not hear any evidence from any water quality scientist or river ecologist who disputed that this scheme was necessary and beneficial to the river.

We received significant submissions from major industries dependent on water in support of the bill and scheme. Nelson Pine Industries, that process over a third of the region’s forest harvest, and employ over 200 people, advised that without the dam the company faced up to 100 days a year with insufficient water to operate, with major implications for the company and region. Waimea Nurseries, that also employs over 200 staff, including part timers, and is New Zealand’s largest commercial nursery, stated it would need to relocate or downsize without secure water. We also heard from Boysenberries New Zealand that the Waimea Plains is the capital for this unique crop—producing 30 percent of the total world crop and 60 percent of the New Zealand crop. Boysenberries require a secure supply of water, particularly during the summer peak, and the dam was essential for the industries’ future.

We heard significant criticism that the council had not adequately consulted with the community over the scheme. This was disputed by the council, who referenced over 200 public meetings and 17 years of discussion about the problem and opting to address it. We are satisfied that there has been widespread community debate on the project but acknowledge it does not have everyone’s support.

The Royal Forest and Bird Society was opposed to the bill because of a concern over the precedent it set in enabling the use of an area of conservation land. They indicated they were not necessarily opposed to the scheme and had agreed to the resource consents through an agreement in the Environment Court.

Other opposition that we heard on the bill was in respect of the issue of how the cost of the scheme fell on ratepayers and the public purse, as compared with the landowners. Others strongly opposed the use of conservation land for commercial and infrastructure purposes. There were also submitters who believed that there were better alternatives than the dam to the water shortage issues in the Waimea catchment.

We received significant submissions from Fish and Game, Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, and the Walking Access Commission on the issue of public access. These submissions were not in opposition to the bill, but were seeking improved access provisions. We were advised that the most challenging access issues are not on the lands covered by this bill, but by the larger areas purchased by council for the reservoir on which we have no jurisdiction. In response to these submissions, we have recommended a change of wording to the easement provisions in the bill over the areas of conservation and to reverse the presumption in favour of public access, except in the interests of public safety. We also welcomed the letter we received from the Tasman District Council dated 23 October 2018, that commits the council to a process with Fish and Game, the Walking Access Commission, and mountain biking interests to consider further improvements in public access on the areas of land beyond the scope of the bill. This was as far as the committee could go in ensuring improved public access.

We thank all submitters, written and oral, on the bill.

Proposed amendments

This commentary covers the main amendments we recommend to the bill as introduced. We do not discuss minor or technical amendments.

Riverbed land

For clarity, we recommend moving some of the contents of clause 5 to a new clause 5A. This would separate the provisions that deal with the vesting of the riverbed land in the Council, and those that deal with possible subsequent transfers of the riverbed land.

Owner of riverbed land to take reasonable steps to return land to original state if scheme is decommissioned

We recommended inserting clause 5A(4) which would require the owner of the riverbed land to take all reasonable steps to return the land to the state it was in at the commencement of the Act if the scheme is decommissioned, and does not proceed. This provision would ensure the land is returned to the conservation estate if the scheme does not proceed.

Amending the date by which construction must start

Clause 5(4)(b)(i) in the bill as introduced sets out that, if construction of the dam has not started by 1 January 2020, the riverbed land would have to be sold to the Crown. This provision would now be covered in our proposed new clause 5A(3).We recommend extending this date to 1 January 2025 to allow more time, if required, for construction to start.

CCO may transfer land back to the Council

It is not clear in the bill as introduced whether a council-controlled organisation (CCO) would be able to transfer the land back to the Council. We consider it important to provide for this possibility as an alternative to the sale of the land back to the Crown. We therefore recommend inserting clause 5A(2) to specify that a CCO may at any time transfer the land back to the Council.

Right of first refusal status

Clauses 5(6) and 5(7) in the bill as introduced relate to the land having right of first refusal (RFR) status under certain Treaty settlement Acts. For clarity, we recommend amending these to become new clauses 5(4), 5A(6), and 5B.

Records relating to the land

We recommend inserting clause 7(aa) to specify that, until the riverbed land was purchased by the Crown under clause 5A(3), the computer freehold register or record of title for the riverbed land would record that the land was subject to new clause 5A of the bill.

Creating an explicit right of public access

The Schedule to the bill sets out the intended terms of the easement. It is implicit in clause 6 of the bill as introduced that there would be a right of public access. We recommend amending clause 6 of the Schedule to create an explicit right of public access, unless there are public safety concerns which preclude the right.

Appendix

Committee process

The Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill was referred to the committee on 19 September 2018. The closing date for submissions was 5 October 2018. We received and considered 137 submissions from interested groups and individuals. We heard oral evidence from 27 submitters at hearings in Richmond and Wellington.

We received advice from the Department of Internal Affairs.

Committee membership

Brett Hudson (Chairperson)

Ginny Andersen

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

Hon Jacqui Dean

Paul Eagle

Hon Peeni Henare

Jamie Strange

Dr Jian Yang

Hon Dr Nick Smith participated in the consideration for some of this item of business.