By ROBYN BRISTOW
The Hurunui Water Project (HWP) was in the spotlight at the Hurunui District Council this week.
Councillors poured over more than 350 submissions on the council’s decision to invest $500,000 to buy shares in HWP. There were 167 against and 201 in favour, with five not stated. There were two late submission against the council’s decision and eight in favour.
The council had earlier agreed to buy the shares subject to suitable terms being reached with HWP on the purchase details and public consultation.
Two days, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, were set aside for the hearing. Councillors will make a final decision in the next couple of weeks.
Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie said the process, the submissions received and those speaking to them were of a very high quality.
Those opposed to buying HWP shares said the council should not be investing in a private scheme that only benefited a minority of ratepayers.
They were concerned about the quality of rivers and water and doubted it would generate jobs. They said the council should be concentrating on infrastructure that provided services to all its ratepayers.
They also said the shares the council proposed buying were “dry ” shares and therefore would not make money. If the scheme failed, the $500,000 would be lost or the council may have to inject more funds to keep it afloat.
Supporters saw the buy-in as a vital tool for drought-proofing farms in the Hurunui district.
They said it would bring life, families and new opportunities to the people of the district. They said it was an investment in economic activity, would promote increased rating values, and would have a trickle-down effect throughout the district that would benefit more than just its shareholders.
“It must be done now and not down the track as there will be no track,” said one supporter, while another said it was needed to create employment and keep “our young from leaving”.
A submitter opposed to the investment had quite a different message.
“This investment sits outside of council’s core services. As a ratepayer I do not support the council borrowing money to support a private scheme that only benefits a very small percentage of the population.”