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The passing of the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill has cleared the way for the construction to begin on the largest dam to be built in New Zealand for more than 20 years, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“The Bill passed by 112 – 8 votes and clears the way for a sustainable solution to the regions long standing water problems.

“The passage of this Bill concludes a 17-year tortuous process for developing and gaining approval for a sustainable solution for the regions water problems. This Bill resolves the last issue of access to the conservation and LINZ land.

“The resource consents were approved in 2014 by the Environment Court and the funding agreements between the Tasman and Nelson councils, Crown Irrigation Ltd and Waimea Irrigation Ltd previously agreed were signed today.

“The $105 million Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme involves construction of a 53m high concrete faced, rockfill dam in the Lee Valley 20km south east of Brightwater. The 5km reservoir will store 13.4 million cubic metres of water to be released during dry periods for irrigation, town water supplies, industry and for maintaining new minimum river flows.

“The Tasman and Nelson regions do not have an overall water shortage problem with less than two per cent of the total resource used. This scheme takes a common sense approach by storing some of the massive volumes of water available in winter for release in summer.

“I acknowledge the support of the Labour, NZ First and ACT parties alongside my National colleagues for enabling the passage of this Bill. I also acknowledge the Mayor and Councillors of the Tasman District Council, the board and staff of Crown Irrigation Ltd, the team from Waimea Irrigators Ltd and local iwi for their support over many years in enabling this project to proceed.

“The practical dividends of this scheme are a cleaner and healthier Waimea River that can be swum, kayaked and fished in during summer. It means the region will be able to produce thousands of additional tonnes of valuable crops like apples, hops, wine and berryfruit. It means the thousands of additional homes being built on the Waimea plains will have a secure water supply.

“This project will enable the Tasman and Nelson regions to be the first to fully comply with the new national standards for minimum river flows and water quality standards that I introduced as Environment Minister under the previous Government. It illustrates that water infrastructure is, alongside tighter regulation, stream planting and fencing, an important part of the solution to New Zealand’s national water challenges.

“My disappointment is that this project is the last to receive funding with the new Government cancelling any further financial support for water infrastructure. My hope is that the future success of this Waimea project will help convince future government’s water storage can deliver both environmental and economic benefits to regional New Zealand.”

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