Monday, July 09, 2018


Back in 1982, National Party Prime Minister Robert Muldoon wanted to build a big dam. But the courts said no: granting water rights to the dam was against the law. So Muldoon passed special legislation, the Clutha Development (Clyde Dam) Empowering Act 1982, in order to get his way and build his pet project.

Fast forward 36 years, and only the scale has changed:

Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says he has secured the support of all 56 National MPs for a local bill that aims to secure land access for the proposed Waimea dam.

"My ambition is to secure the full support of all parties and MPs, and I will be working on this in the coming weeks in preparation for the first reading and vote, due in August," Smith said.

The local bill, which was notified by Tasman District Council this week, seeks to gain an inundation easement over 9.6 hectares of conservation land in the Mount Richmond State Forest Park, near Nelson. The easement is needed for the creation of the reservoir for the proposed dam in the Lee Valley. The bill would also secure a right to construct the dam on Crown riverbed.

Its a smaller dam, but the same issue: the law says National's friends can't do what they want - in this case, ruin part of a protected conservation park to line the pockets of local farmers. So rather than respect the law, National's solution is a special carve-out for its mates. The idea that conservation areas are for conservation seems to be beyond them, and it should make everyone worry about what they will do to our conservation areas and national parks next time they're in government.

The good news is that like most of the others, this dam project is financially marginal and will be cancelled if prices escalate. At which point its worth noting that its one of three dams the government is still funding. Cancelling that funding would seem to be an excellent way of ensuring this land stays protected.