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.”
A record number of Official Information Act requests have been declined by the State Services Commissions in the past year, despite the agency being responsible for implementing the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“At the agency’s annual review before the select committee today, the State Services Commission admitted declining 22 Official Information Act requests in the past year, compared with a total of six declines over the previous seven years.
“This makes a joke of the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever.
“When Official Information Act requests are provided, the State Services Commission isn’t showing much openness. Included in the State Services Commission’s numbers for Official Information Act requests that were approved is the release of the Open Government Strategy in response to National’s Official Information Act request that had 90 per cent of the document redacted.
“This poor record on openness of disclosures and information is compounded by the State Services Commission doubling its budget for public relations and communications from $403,000 to $845,000. This equates to $50,000 for each of the 17 press releases issued by the State Services Commission.
“These numbers show the Government has put spin ahead of substance and far from being more open, its lead public service organisation is declining a record number of information requests while doubling its expenditure on spin doctors.”
The successful completion of the Waimahia development that now accommodates more than 1000 people and which has delivered a new home every week for over four years is the sort of housing model that the Government should be replicating, National MP Dr Nick Smith said at today’s celebration in Weymouth marking the project’s completion.
“This $112 million Waimahia housing development is a wonderful success story and a huge credit to the community housing sector and iwi partners. It has delivered 295 genuinely affordable homes for modest and lower income families in a beautiful new coastal neighbourhood that includes a new early childhood centre, park, wetland and jetty.”
The Waimahia development was launched in October 2013 by then Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith and then Auckland Mayor Len Brown promising 282 homes. The project was the Government’s first special housing area, part of the surplus Crown land programme and was funded by the Social Housing Fund.
“This project has over achieved in delivering 13 more homes than promised. It exceeded budget enabling $3 million of the $29 million grant to be returned to the taxpayer. The project has taken nine months longer than the planned four years to complete,” Dr Smith says.
“First home buyers have acquired 234 of the Waimahia homes, with 91 purchased with a mortgage, 85 under shared equity and 58 under rent-to-buy schemes. The average price was $355,000 for two bedroom, $452,000 for three bedroom, $535,000 for four bedroom and $545,000 for five bedroom.
“The remaining 61 homes are rented to high need tenants at discounted rentals, as social housing and are owned by CORT Community Housing, Accessible Properties, the Monte Cecilia Trust, and Habitat for Humanity.
“Waimahia is one of over a dozen major housing developments initiated by the previous Government but it offers the most in helping shape future housing policy. Its major innovations is the rent-to-buy and shared equity schemes to help first home buyers and the partnering with community providers to provide social housing rather than traditional state housing.
“The scheme contrasts with KiwiBuild in that the homes are markedly more affordable than the private market and the buyers are lower income earners who would be unlikely otherwise to be able to own their own home.
“Waimahia is one of many housing initiatives taken by the previous National Government that is positively contributing to improvements in Auckland’s housing market. Supply is the most important issue and the number of homes being built has increased by 20 per cent each year over the past six years trebling from 4000 in 2012 to 12,000 last year.
“The proportion of homes sold to first home buyers has been increasing since 2015 when National’s HomeStart scheme was introduced that has since helped 50,000 kiwis nationwide into their first home.
“I am disappointed no Government Minister or Labour MP accepted an invitation to attend today’s opening. It would dispel their repeated claims that National did not build any affordable housing. They would also gain from the lessons of this project on how to help more Kiwi families into homes.”
Nelson MP Nick Smith is praising the Tasman District Council for its decision to proceed with the Waimea Community Dam, after a lengthy meeting today which saw a 9-5 vote in favour.
“This is a hugely positive decision for the future of the Nelson and Tasman region. It means a cleaner and healthier river, enables growth of our key horticultural industry and secures household water for the huge growth in Richmond, Mapua, Brightwater and Nelson South.
“I congratulate the Mayor and Councillors for having the courage to make this major infrastructure decision for the region. The easier option would have been to ignore this long term problem and just keep kicking the can down the road. It would have been negligent for the Council to have voted no today as it would have lost over $40 million of Government funding support in grants and discounted loans. This funding from Crown Irrigation was particularly vulnerable as the new Government is cancelling the fund.
“We should not be at all surprised that this $100 million water project has been controversial as this is always the case with big infrastructure investments. Most water augmentation projects proposed around New Zealand in the past two decades have not proceeded because of funding, resource consents or politics. We are positioning ourselves with this project to be a national leader in sustainable water management with a stronger economy and cleaner environment.
“The last hurdle now to complete is the passage of the Local Bill I am sponsoring to access the land. It passed its second reading on Wednesday by 112- 8 votes. I remain hopeful of having its third reading on Wednesday 12 December so it can be passed by Christmas enabling dam construction to begin in the New Year.”
Nelson MP Nick Smith has welcomed today’s report to Parliament from the Governance and Administration Select Committee on the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation) Bill and its unanimous support for the Bill’s passage.
“The Select Committee was strongly influenced by the strength of submissions from the Council, environmentalists and water scientists that the dam was necessary to address the significant minimum flow and water quality problems in summer.
“The compelling economic case put by horticulturalists like Boysenberries NZ and industries like Nelson Pine also satisfied the Committee that the dam was in the best economic interests of the region.
“The Select Committee has made three changes to the Bill in response to submissions. Firstly, the request for the Council to provide public access over the 9.7ha of public conservation land has been strengthened in response to concerns from Fish and Game, Federated Mountain Clubs and the Walking Access Commission. Secondly, the time to begin construction of the dam without requiring further law change has been extended from 2020 to 2025. Thirdly, the protections for iwi with a first right of refusal over the land in the event the dam is ever decommissioned in future has been strengthened to ensure local Treaty settlements must be honoured.
“The Select Committee report and amended Bill were tabled in Parliament today and the Departmental Report and all submissions are also now available on Parliament’s website.
“The timetable for passage by Christmas is tight with the Bill requiring a second reading, a clause by clause debate and a third reading. My objective remains to get the Bill passed by Christmas to enable dam construction work to start in the New Year.”
The release of documents from the Government today about the appointment of a Chief Technology Officer shows there is a raft of questions the Prime Minister needs to answer, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent multiple messages to Clare Curran asking how the appointment process was progressing. The messages show she was very much across the details of the appointment. The Prime Minister needs to explain why she was so deeply invested.
“The Prime Minister’s Chief Press Secretary contacted Derek Handley asking to speak with him urgently and Mr Handley later sought advice in return. The Prime Minister’s Acting Chief of Staff also phoned Mr Handley. How can the Prime Minister have shrugged all of this off so casually when her office was so deeply involved?
“The meeting with the Prime Minister’s Acting Chief of Staff took place because Labour Party President Nigel Haworth set it up. He had met with Mr Handley before the election where Mr Handley offered his help to the Labour Party. Mr Handley then got in touch again post-election where he was referred to the Prime Minister’s Office. The Prime Minister needs to be open and transparent about whether she discussed appointing Mr Handley with the Labour Party President
“When questioned in Parliament the Prime Minister was less than up front about her correspondence, simply saying it was on record she’d known Mr Handley for a number of years. What we now know is that both she and senior staffers in her office deeply involved in the appointment process. The release of these documents raise more questions than they answer.”
The Government’s incompetence and constant mistruths over the fiasco of its Chief Technology Officer appointment continues with one mistake compounding another, National’s State Service Spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“Ministers are just compounding the mess over the CTO role with error upon error. Grant Robertson had to admit with a Personal Explanation to the House this afternoon that despite weeks of questions and a specific instruction from the Speaker that the Government last week failed to disclose all of the relevant emails from former Minister Clare Curran.
“This came on top of the Prime Minister claiming she’s only had one text from Mr Handley that she did not respond to. Mr Handley’s disclosures today show both Ministers were being economical with the truth at best.
“It was also a mistake for Megan Woods to not have personally communicated with Derek Handley when she cancelled his job on 14th September without warning, particularly when Ministers had engaged in dozens of communications with him up until that date.
“She erred again this morning in claiming she could not comment on the Derek Handley issue because of a confidentiality condition that did not exist. She erred a third time when she accidentally sent private information to my office and a fourth time with incorrect answers in Parliament.
“Derek Handley has been treated shabbily but at least he’s had the courage to be up front with the public by releasing his communications. Ministers have been ducking and diving for weeks trying to avoid disclosure.
“This has become a black comedy of errors. The Government’s been caught out by its repeated mistruths and efforts to avoid scrutiny. It is way past time for the Government to end the secrecy and release all of the relevant documents.”
Support has been welcomed from National, Labour, NZ First and Act parties for the introduction of the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill that saw 112 votes in support to eight opposed and its referral to the Governance and Administration Select Committee, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.
“This Bill is the last critical piece of work required to enable the construction of this dam in the Lee Valley and resolve the long term problems of water security and river health on the Waimea Plains. The project has full resource consents and the $100 million in funding required from horticulturalists, Government and Council. This Bill is about resolving the issue of access to the land for the reservoir in the Mount Richmond Forest Park.
“My support for this Bill in enabling the Council access to this DOC and LINZ land is that the environmental gains from increasing minimum flows in the Waimea River by five-fold far outweigh the small loss of 11 hectares of land out of a park of 166,000 hectares. This is about practical environmentalism as the dam is the only realistic solution to the region’s critical summer water shortages.
“The opposition of this Bill from the Green Party is ideological. They cannot accept any conservation land being used for any sort of engineering structures even when all the technical reports shows it is the only realistic solution to improving the health of the Waimea River. Their proposals for Nelson to move away from water intensive crops like apples, berryfruit, wine and hops ignores the fact that we have an abundance of water and just need the infrastructure to better manage it through the seasons.
“The benefits of this Bill are a cleaner and healthier Waimea River, increased jobs and exports from the horticultural sector, additional water to support more housing and improving the regions resilience to climate change.
“I will be working closely with the Select Committee to meet the requirement for it to be reported back to Parliament by 7 November. My ambition is to try and have the Bill passed by Christmas but it will be tight. The next step is to finalise dates for submissions to close and to schedule hearings in Nelson next month.”
Taxpayers are being stung at least $100,000 because of the Government’s incompetent handling of the Chief Technology Officer appointment, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“The process around appointing a Chief Technology Officer has been a shambles from the beginning. It involved secret meetings and emails, the resignation of Minister Clare Curran and now we’re paying Derek Handley around $100,000 for a job he never even started.
“The Government must now come clean with the hidden emails from Clare Curran and the Prime Minister so we know the full story of how badly this was handled.
“The CTO is the flagship of the Government’s IT policy and was budgeted to cost the taxpayer over $500,000 per year. Now if it still goes ahead we can add a pay out of over $100,000 because of the Government’s incompetence.
“The Government should apologise to taxpayers for wasting their money and Mr Handley for wasting his time. He’s right to have criticised the process for lacking in transparency.
“The CTO role has cost at least $100,000, a Minister her job and the Government its credibility. We can also add this to the Government’s ever growing list of reviews and working groups, currently more than 160 and costing $170 million.”
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has failed to tell the truth to either the public or Parliament’s Speaker over whether his MPs have signed a $300,000 obligation contract, National’s spokesperson for Electoral Law Nick Smith says.
“Mr Peters repeatedly told the public a month ago that all NZ First MPs had signed a $300,000 resignation obligation contract as required by their party’s rules.
“He has now told Parliament’s Speaker that no NZ First MP has signed a resignation obligation contract so as to avoid a Privileges Committee hearing into a breach of Parliament’s rules over disclosure of financials interests.
“This dodgy and dishonest conduct by the Deputy PM strikes at the heart of public trust in Government and Parliament. It is reminiscent of the Owen Glenn affair in 2008 when Mr Peters was caught out for blatantly lying over whether he had received a $100,000 donation that led to a finding of contempt by the Privileges Committee, his resignation as Foreign Minister and his party being banished from Parliament by voters.
“It is difficult to ascertain the truth over these contracts. NZ First MPs put themselves in the position of either breaching their own party rules or Parliament’s rules. I suspect the MPs have cynically decided to deny the existence of the contracts because breaking Parliament’s rules would result in a damaging Privileges Committee hearing and deferral of the Waka Hopping Bill whereas nothing will happen from them breaking their own Party’s rules.
“This issue exposes how dodgy the NZ First Party is. Mr Peters has effectively told the Speaker that all its MPs are in breach of Article 57 of the NZ First Party’s constitution. The conduct paints a dangerous picture of Mr Peters and his MPs believing they are above the rule of law. This is deeply concerning for a party that is at the centre of New Zealand’s current Government.
“I am disappointed that the Speaker has not referred this serious matter to the Privileges Committee. It is clear there is a matter of privilege and the key issue is whether or not the contracts were signed on which there is now contradictory evidence. Speaker Mallard’s decision contradicts Speaker’s ruling 206/2 that the role of the Speaker is determining whether there is a matter of privilege and determining the validity of evidence is a matter for the Privileges Committee. Mr Peters denied receiving the $100,000 Owen Glenn donation but that still led Speaker Wilson in August 2008 referring the matter to the Privileges Committee.
“This saga over these outrageous contracts and the draconian NZ First Party rules just adds controversy to the debate over the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill. The convention is that electoral law changes are only made with broad parliamentary support. Here we have significant electoral law changes enabling a party leader to sack a democratically elected MP being passed with a bare majority, the Greens saying the Bill is undemocratic and draconian and NZ First MPs compromised by their party rules creating a personal financial interest in its passage.”
1. Privileges complaint to Speaker Mallard 16 August 2018
2. Speaker’s response 12 September 2018
3. Rt Hon. Winston Peters public statements on NZ First contracts
4. Article 57h NZ First Party constitution