Irrigation NZ goes nasty after dam criticism

Irrigation NZ, a vested interest if I’ve ever seen, ran shonky ads in the HB Today last week. Word is there are numerous complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority over the ads.

They were so wonky, and one-sided that one economist decided to take them to task.

Peter Fraser, Principal – R?pere Consulting, and long time critic of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, responds to the newspaper advertisements where Irrigation NZ attempts to “‘dam’ Ruataniwha myths”.

“Far from being a decisive and convincing expos?, the so-called ‘facts’ are unconvincing, disingenuous and internally contradictory” Mr Fraser said.

Mr Fraser made responses to the following Irrigation NZ statements:

? Claim: It is an economic gamble. Fact: 190 farmers have signed up to take water and numerous reports by reputable economists support the project?s objectives

o Response: 190 farmers represent approximately 40M m3 of the scheme’s 104M m3 capacity – so it remains an open question – and a risk to ratepayers – who will use the other 64M m3. It is also worth noting that the ‘reputable economist’ referred to by Irrigation NZ was employed by HBRIC and the cost-benefit analysis produced had to be calculated a second time after the scheme failed to meet the public sector discount rate the first time round. ?

? Claim: It will turn Hawke?s Bay into a dairy farm. Fact: There are no new dairy conversions amongst the 190 signed up. Only one irrigator will expand an existing dairy farm by 100ha.

o Response: The scheme is premised on 40%, or about 42M m3 of water going to dairy farms. Indeed, this is the assumption the ‘reputable economist’ used when calculating the benefits of the scheme. If irrigated dairy is not profitable – as long argued by critics such as myself – who will buy the remaining 64M m3 of water still on offer?

? Claim: It will pollute local rivers. Fact: The dam has very strict environmental regulations and all its irrigators will be independently audited to ensure good environmental practice.

o Response: The Tukituki catchment is already over-allocated in terms of nitrogen, which makes a scheme based on agricultural intensification extremely risky and arguably foolhardy.

? Claim: It will risk water contamination like in Havelock North. Fact: These are very separate matters. Monitoring has shown the aquifer is not contaminated ? farming has not caused the Havelock North issue, infrastructure is the problem.

o Response: Irrigation NZ Board member and CHB farmer, Hugh Ritchie, has argued, to the effect, ‘it is the pipe’s fault’ that 5200 people have gotten ill – a stance that has been flatly rejected by Hasting District Council as ?irresponsible and misleading?.

“At the heart of these advertisements is the seductive message, that ‘with a dam like Opuha, CHB can be the next Ashburton’. However, the reality is a bit different – because the same advertisement contains a chart showing 53% of Opuha Water goes to dairying. It is therefore highly misleading for Irrigation NZ, on the one hand, to infer the Ruataniwha is not about dairying (when it clearly is); yet on the other hand, cites an example that is highly dependent on dairying taking the water” Mr Fraser explained.

“I’m not sure how to describe this analysis” Mr Fraser said “but ‘shonky’ is a pretty good start”.

He only debated the content of the advert, and called them out. He didn’t get personal, he addresses the so-called facts and showed they were a fiction.

This was how Irrigation NZ responded:


Classy. NOT. Desperation is a stinky cologne.

Peter Fraser is classy however, and he used the opportunity to further school Irrigation NZ.

Peter Fraser, Principal – R?pere Consulting, and author of the Fish and Game commissioned report?Economic Review of Wairarapa Water’s Application for Stage 2 (Feasibility) Funding from the Irrigation Acceleration Fund expressed dismay regarding the behaviour of Irrigation New Zealand’s Chief Executive Andrew Curtis regarding a Tweet posted by Irrigation New Zealand labelling Mr Fraser ‘a shonky economist’.

The tweet, posted on 21 September, read as follows:

@irrigationNZ – @fishandgame pay shonky economist to criticise storage project but forgot it feasibility study to explore options (with link to Stuff article)

“It is disappointing – but unfortunately not surprising – that Irrigation New Zealand has descended into gutter tactics of ‘playing the person’, rather than ‘playing the ball’. In addition to be being unprofessional and unnecessary, personal attacks are just distasteful” Mr Fraser said.

Mr Fraser further explained that he phoned Mr Curtis to request that the tweet be deleted. A belligerent Mr Curtis not only refused to do so but stated Mr Fraser was indeed ‘a shonky economist who wrote shonky reports’.

“Look, I’m not expecting Irrigation New Zealand to like what I say, but I do expect a level of maturity that permits an informed debate – rather than ritual histrionics. The simple point is Mr Curtis has had the Wairarapa Report for over a week – and my previous work on the Ruataniwha for over two years – and in neither case has he made a single statement of substance, identified an error of fact, or an error in interpretation regarding my work; and I suspect that if there was one I would know about it by now. It therefore seems that Mr Curtis talks a big game but is unable to deliver” Mr Fraser said.

Mr Fraser also noted that one of the advantages of Twitter is that it has rules against abusive and defamatory behaviour by members, so the offending tweet was quickly removed after Mr Fraser reported it. Mr Fraser also noted in the week it was posted the tweet attracted precisely zero shares and only one ‘like’ – and that was from someone in Texas.

“Whilst Mr Curtis’s statements are clearly defamatory, on balance, I suspect they have actually strengthened my credibility and professional reputation, of which I am thankful – indeed, Mr Curtis’s criticisms are a perverse type of affirmation, so I suppose I should really thank him for that” Mr Fraser said. “Nevertheless, I will be writing to Irrigation NZ Chair Nicky Hyslop expressing my disappointment at Mr Curtis’s unbecoming behaviour and request that he reconsider his approach to dealing with people who may not happen to agree with him”.

“At the end of the day, unsubstantiated name calling is inappropriate behaviour for children and it is most definitely inappropriate behaviour for a chief executive leading an industry advocacy organisation” Mr Fraser said.

While the HBRC wants to steal public land for a private purpose and profit and Irrigation NZ thinks calling?a respected economist?like Peter Fraser shonky then you know that they are losing the argument.

The dam business plan has been wonky from the get go. We have one commenter on this site who has drunk the dam Kool-Aid, but he has never once pointed out where my facts are wrong. It is obvious that many supporters have not read the Board Of Inquiry reports, ignored the findings of the judge in that Inquiry and are continuing to ignore the mounting losses in court by the Hawkes Bay Regional Council. They haven’t won a single case. Whilst you may not agree with those taking the cases they keep winning and the courts are hardly green wombles are they?

Hopefully, after the local body elections, an adult will be in charge of the council and some sensible exit strategies can be employed. It’s just such a shame the council has wasted millions upon millions of ratepayers hard earned cash on pursuing a plan that was so dreadfully flawed from the get go.

If Maggie Barry and the Council think that stealing 22ha of?protected forest is a public relations winner I’ve got really bad news for them.