Waimea water community dam

Construction of the $104 million Waimea Community Dam (WCD) is well underway.

Waimea Water Limited (WWL), a Council Controlled Organisation owned by the Tasman District Council and Waimea Irrigators Limited, was formed late in 2018 to build, finance, own and operate the Waimea Community Dam in a safe, reliable and efficient manner.

Mike Scott was appointed Chief Executive Officer in February 2019. He has a Masters in Engineering post graduate degree from the University of Canterbury, and previously held the position of CEO for the $34 billion North West Shelf LNG project in Australia. Scott has established a team of qualified specialists to manage dam design, construction, environment and sustainability, project services, business and corporate matters. The lure of New Zealand’s first greenfield dam in 20 years attracted experienced staff from around New Zealand and Australia.

Waimea Water Ltd.

Located in the Lee Valley, south of Brightwater in the Tasman region, the concrete face rock filled dam will be 53 metres high and 220 metres long to hold approximately 13 million cubic metres of water. The dam was designed by Tonkin Taylor and construction will be certified by Damwatch Engineering.  The dam is being constructed for WWL through a joint venture between experienced local companies Fulton Hogan and Taylors Contracting Ltd.

The development of access roads and the preparation of the site for construction facilities started in March this year, with construction of the dam itself due to start in July 2019. The build of the starter dam and culvert is expected to start in October 2019. The dam is due to be completed in late 2021 and the reservoir full in 2022.

An extensive biodiversity programme associated with the project is in place. The programme includes the relocation and propagation of rare plant species, protection of the impacted fauna such as the New Zealand longfin eel and the native land snail. A programme of planting designed to offset the carbon impacts of the project is also underway.

The weather presented a couple of early challenges to the project. February brought severe drought conditions and the need for safety precautions due to the very high risk of the region’s biggest ever fire spreading to the site before it was finally extinguished. May then brought a 1:50 year rain deluge of 47 mm/hr that lead to the river flow increasing from 3 m3/s to 250 m3/s. The challenges associated with the geology will be better understood later in 2019.

In spite of these and other challenges which may arise, Waimea Water Limited is well positioned to deliver a legacy project for the region which will benefit the local community for many years to come.

This year’s drought in the Nelson/Tasman Region highlighted the need for the dam to store water. Had there already been a dam, Scott says the Tasman region would have avoided the economic impact of the drought, like Nelson city could because of its dam. He suggested the dam would probably pay for itself in a couple of droughts when you consider the cost to the local economy, particularly for food producers, and the manufacturing and processing industries.

Good infrastructure, such as the WCD, will build resilience within our growing community and provide greater protection for the local economy. It also encourages economic development of the region with more primary industries, which in turn will lead to more secondary and tertiary industries.