An irrigation spokesperson says the controversial Waimea dam is critical for horticulture and urban water supply, despite Thursday’s protests.
Hundreds of Tasman district residents hit the streets of Richmond to voice their concerns over the proposed project.
“No dam! No dam,” shouted one protester.
The protest, planned by Water Information Network Inc (WIN), was a response to Tasman District Council’s revealed budget blowout on estimated costs for the project.
Doing nothing is not an option.
The projected costs increased by $26 million in capital costs, on top of the earlier $75.9 million forecast.
But Waimea Irrigators Ltd chairman Murray King told RadioLIVE that the dam is “critical” for addressing the acute water shortage in the Waimea Plains.
“It’s absolutely essential you have reliable water through the critical months of January and February. And that’s really what we’re trying to address here.”
Mr King says the dam isn’t just about irrigation, but also about providing reliable water to the community.
He admitted that while the extra cost projections are infuriating for farmers alike, any opposition to the dam will just add to the total bill.
“The more opposition there is and the more hurdles we have to get over, the more consultations add more costs,” he said.
But the opposition argues that ratepayers shouldn’t be financially responsible for a dam that poses potential cost overruns.
According to WIN’s frequently asked questions, irrigators will use 82.3 percent of the water but only pay 49 percent of the dam cost.
A horticulture farmer outside the Waimea Plains argued that neighbouring farmers would essentially be subsidising their competition by paying rates.
Nevertheless, Mr King stands by the proposed dam, telling RadioLIVE that doing nothing for the region “is not an option”.
Watch the full interview with Murray King above.