New Zealand's largest water storage dam is a step closer to becoming a reality.
The Hawke's Bay regional council has voted to invest up to $80 million in the Ruataniwha dam, which will provide irrigation for more than 30,000 hectares of drought prone central Hawke's Bay farmland.
But the project still needs final board of enquiry sign off, institutional investment and crucial farmer support to get the go ahead.
Supporters of the dam say today's decision show the council is behind the project and that will encourage others to get on board.
"We send a signal to institutional investors, we send a signal to the farming community that the hbrc has committed money provisionally to the Ruataniwha storage scheme," says HBRC chairman Fenton Wilson.
The 80 metre deep dam will coast around $275 million. The council will fork out up to $80 million and it's still unknown who will fund the shortfall after key investors Trustpower and Nga Tahu pulled out.
"I'm deeply concerned that investors with far more expertise than me in this industry sector have withdrawn their investment in this project," says Rex Graham.
Some Hawke's Bay locals who rallied last week to gain support for the project were at today's meeting and thrilled with the outcome.
"We're going to take the water, can't wait to get it," Waipawa farmer Jeremy Greer told ONE News.
Experts say while today is an important step forward for dam supporters, it's now crucial farmers get on board.
But many farmers are waiting to see what rules a board of enquiry puts in place when it releases its decision on the dam project later this week.