Call for greater clarity

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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Councillors needed to be clear about what they were voting for when they considered the Hurunui District Council investing $500,000 in shares in the Hurunui Water Project (HWP), Cr Julia McLean said.

She introduced a formal notice of motion at last week’s council meeting calling for more information and independent advice on the legality of the consultation process and the risks to which the council could be exposed.

She said the investment decision was significant and councillors needed a full and proper understanding of what was up for negotiation and what “simply is not”.

She said the her notice of motion should not divide the council. “We must do this for our community,” she said.

The notice was accepted and left to lie on the table after councillors negotiated with Cr McLean over aspects of it, which sparked some changes.

Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie will report back on the legality of the consultation process when the council looks at making a decision on May 17.

The notice of motion calls for information on the impact of the council using water from the project to boost supplies, including a cost analysis of the infrastructure, and details on how much extra water the council needs and why.

It also calls for independent advice on whether the HWP can make any further calls on shares/shareholders if the council buys the dry shares, what obligations a private/public supply agreement entails in meeting the National Drinking Water Standards, and calls for a copy of HWP’s legal advice on the potential to be a water supplier to a public network.

If none is available, the notice calls for a reason why. It also calls for HWP to reveal if it is working with other third parties, asks for it to disclose any plans to use its requiring authority for future compulsory land acquisition, and asks for its independent peer-reviewed advice on the engineering assessment and risks associated with building the scheme, along with an assessment of financial controls in place regarding construction of the project and analysis of potential overruns.

Environment Canterbury will be asked to present the environmental assessment and impacts of the project to the council at a May 30 meeting.

Councillors, in supporting the notice, said they needed more time to consider making a decision on buying the shares and to have a further in-depth look at submissions.

They said May 17 provided a chance to have all councillors present who could take part in the debate, with Mayor Winton Dalley and Crs Marie Black and Nicky Anderson recused due to a conflict of interest.

Cr Jason Fletcher said it was not appropriate to look at sharing water with HWP when the council was debating buying dry shares, not wet shares. The council would be spending a lot of ratepayers’ money on getting information, some of which almost assumed the council had already decided to buy the shares, he said.

Cr Fiona Harris said she felt the process was back to front. The council should consider all submissions before considering anything else.

The matter will lie on the table while the costs of getting independent advice are considered because no budget had been allocated.