Dam deadline getting closer

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Landowners on the Waimea Plains are showing “strong interest” in funding the Waimea Community Dam but the company partially responsible for advancing the funding and construction of dam won’t know for certain if they are “across the line” until July at the earliest.

Waimea Irrigators Limited (WIL) has surveyed around 700 landowners on the Waimea Plains asking for expressions of interest in purchasing shares to fund the minimum $15million required from landowners towards the total cost of the proposed dam.

Additional funding for the $82million dam in the Lee Valley is also likely to come from the Government agency  Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd, which has signalled it may provide a $25million loan, and the Tasman District Council which has allocated $25million in its Long Term Plan for the dam.

Although there has been a “good response” to the survey, with landowners so far indicating they would purchase over 90 per cent of the minimum number of shares required for the dam project to proceed, WIL spokesperson John Palmer says they still need more support.

John says that the more people sign up for shares the more economical the scheme will be.

John also points out that those who are part of the share purchase scheme will be the only users guaranteed access to water during normal summers.

He urges all landowners on the Waimea Plains to seriously consider the implications of not being part of the share purchase scheme.

“If the dam proceeds, water permit holders without shares in WIL will have very limited water availability in most seasons and a likely significant land value discount for their property, including smaller lifestyle properties,” he says.

John also says landowners need to consider the impact of the new Tasman Resource Management Plan which will reduce the amount of water available to all Waimea landowners, including farmers, orchardists and lifestyle properties.

WIL project manager Natasha Berkett says they have had “very good interest” from a range of landowners, including both large and small-scale irrigators as well as some landowners who don’t presently have a water permit.

Natasha says more than 300 of the 700 surveys have been returned so far with around 150 of those coming from irrigators who own five hectares or less.

She says that indicates many life style block owners recognise that securing their future water supply is critical and will add value to their properties.

Natasha says the next step for WIL is to issue a Product Disclosure Statement, around the middle of the year.

The statement will provide relevant information for investors in the dam and ask them to make a financial commitment to the scheme.

“It’s essential that the expressions of interest are now converted into actual sign-up of shares”.

The proposed dam will be 52m high and store 13.4 million cubic metres of water which will be released into the Lee River to maintain the level of aquifers on the Waimea Plains that supply water to irrigators and urban users.