Is dam a dirty word? Certainly not when its promoters intend building it on Maori land

Breaching the Eder dam...that will teach the buggers for not compensating the local iwi.

Breaching the Eder dam…that will teach the buggers for not compensating the local iwi.

One of the hits from the musical “South Pacific” was titled “There Is Nothing Like a Dame”.

If Rodgers and Hammerstein had ventured further south they might have changed it to “There’s Nothing Like a Dam”.

Building dams in this country involves a costly process just to get the consents and opponents of the applications can lead the applicants a right old song and dance.

The song and dance sometimes can be halted if the dam builder compensates Maori for the mischief being done to them culturally and what-have-you.

For example, a year or so ago Meridian Energy confirmed it donated money to a West Coast iwi which changed its mind over its opposition to the massive Mokihinui River hydro dam.

The state-owned enterprise was granted resource consent this week for the $300 million, 85-metre-high dam and power station north of Westport. The dam, three kilometres upstream of the Seddonville settlement, will create a 14km-long lake and flood public conservation land.

Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae, the council representing a sub-tribe of Ngai Tahu, strenuously opposed the dam, but changed its mind during the hearing. This week, it publicly supported the scheme.

Yesterday, the iwi said Meridian had agreed to pay into a fund “to monitor effects”. Information on “anything else” would be released after a runanga meeting at Arahura this weekend, runanga chairman Francois Tumahai, of Christchurch, said.

Meridian confirmed that it had made a payment, but declined to say how much.

Meridian said it had made a payment so Ngati Waewae could “fund other cultural initiatives”.

“They did a lot of work for us in assessing the cultural impact of the project,” spokesman Alan Seay said. “The cultural project we are funding is to offset the impact of the project on the mauri [life force] of the river.”

Mr Tumahai said yesterday that Meridian had agreed to set up a cultural fund, and would fund the iwi to monitor the dam and its impact.

“It’s very tied up with cultural enhancement, mainly around monitoring … ”

Dunno if a big lump of money will mollify the Maori opponents of a dam up the road an hour or so from Eketahuna.

But as Alf learned here:

The chairman of the board of inquiry into the Ruataniwha dam has raised the possibility of delaying a decision on the project amidst claims its promoter, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, has not adequately consulted with Maori.

Justice Lester Chisholm floated the idea of delaying the board’s decision yesterday during the inquiry’s first sitting day following an adjournment over the Christmas break.

He was responding to submissions from Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and other Maori interests who claim the council has not met its statutory obligations to consult with local Maori over its plans to change the Hawke’s Bay Regional Resource Management Plan and build a massive dam on the Makaroro River in Central Hawke’s Bay to feed an irrigation scheme on the Ruataniwha Plains.

After listening to opening submissions yesterday from lawyer Jamie Ferguson, who represents Ngati Kahungunu and other Maori groups based in the Heretanga area, Justice Chisholm asked Mr Ferguson for his view on possibly delaying the board’s decision to allow for a period of further consultation.


Or negotiation?

Surely not.

Ngati Kahungunu is reported to be opposed to the Ruataniwha project and the management plan changes for a number of reasons including that there was insufficient evidence that water quality and the ecology of the Tukituki River catchment would be enhanced and protected under the council’s proposals.

So there we have it.

Their concerns are environmental.

Of course, this had been spelled out a few months ago at a hui for Hawke’s Bay hapu at Matahiwi Marae in Clive.

Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc on that occasion received endorsement to oppose the Ruataniwha Dam.

Speakers voiced strong objections to the Regional Council’s past disregard of Maori water concerns in the region, and with respect to the proposed dam, cited insufficient protection of environmental values and lack of adequate consultation on the project. NKII Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana sized up the sentiment and proposed a position of opposition, which was unanimously approved.

At this point, NKII has been empowered as the authoritative voice for Maori in the region on the dam and related Tukituki Plan Change, both now before an appointed Board of Inquiry. Dr Adele Whyte, acting CEO, also confirmed that NKII was not considering an investment in the dam.

All in all, a bad news night for the Regional Council (or is it Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company?!) with respect to its “damn dam”, as one speaker put it.

The regional council had been dangling Maori job prospects and touting Maori support and even investment commitment for the dam.

It looks like they were given the fingers in reply.

But hey.

Don’t imagines that Maori always get their piupiu in a twist over dams.


The heartening news today is that Wi Pere Trust has got the tick of approval from Gisborne District Council to store water at Whatatutu, further on up the East coast.

Supplies will be taken from Waipaoa River and the dam will hold enough water to service tribal farmland, vineyards and orchards for 20 days during any drought.

Wi Pere Trust chair Alan Haronga says it will be built on an old river bed on tribal land, a convenient spot which can accommodate a 2000 cubic metre reservoir.

He says it is a form of drought protection to keep the trust businesses going through times when there are water restrictions.

Mr Haronga does not expect any criticism over the East Coast dam because it will be on Maori land.

So that’s the secret, eh?

If Maori build it on Maori land for the benefit of Maori, it’s a goer.

And maybe it helps if it’s not too big.

One Response to Is dam a dirty word? Certainly not when its promoters intend building it on Maori land

  1. Barry says:

    Hello Alf

    I think you’ve got the old part-maaaadi-morrrdi-mowri-whatever-they- call- themselves sussed!

    Cultureless people (no art, no dance, no literature, no music – ie no culture) lying about their non-existent “culture”.

    Also criminals are the local body politicians and central government politicians who give in to them on this garbage , I think.

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