In a significant development for the Waimea Community Dam, the project's reservoir was officially closed on 26 May, signalling its readiness for filling. The construction of the dam, a joint effort between the Tasman District Council and Waimea Irrigators, marks a significant milestone in New Zealand's infrastructure, being the first large dam built in the country in 25 years and the first publicly-funded large dam in three decades since the completion of the Clyde Dam.

Designed to hold 13 million cubic meters of water, the dam has been developed to ensure water security for the region. Barring any adverse weather conditions during winter, the reservoir is expected to be filled by next summer, as stated by Waimea Water Ltd CEO Mike Scott.

“This milestone of closure signifies completion of the dam and spillway and now allows us to fill the reservoir over this winter. The river will be diverted through a temporary pipe over the next six months, while the reservoir is being filled and the permanent pipework and systems installed and commissioned,” Scott said. “I thank the Contractor, Fulton Hogan and Taylors Contracting, for their recent concerted effort to complete the works and achieve this milestone. I also thank and appreciate the big shift from our staff and from Damwatch Engineering in getting us to this achievement.”

Once operational, the Waimea Community Dam will serve as a reliable water supply for the rapidly growing Richmond and Waimea areas in the Tasman District. Additionally, it will support the region's agricultural sector and contribute to the improvement of river health in the Lee and Waimea rivers.

Scott emphasized the dam's role in enhancing regional water security amidst the challenges posed by climate change. With scientists predicting more intense storms and periods of lower precipitation in the future, the dam will help mitigate these impacts by capturing stormwater and releasing it naturally during dry periods.

John Roche, the Project Director of the Fulton Hogan Taylors Joint Venture, praised the collective capabilities of all involved parties, including Fulton Hogan, Taylors, Waimea Water Limited, Damwatch, and GHD. 

“The Fulton Hogan Taylors Joint Venture team have been living and breathing the construction of the Waimea Community Dam since 2018 and are delighted to mark the achievement of the dam’s inaugural filling. This milestone is a testament to the perseverance and expertise of all parties who have helped make this possible,” Roche said. “We look forward to the successful completion of this project, and seeing the benefits it will bring to the community.”

Tasman Mayor Tim King said it is ‘brilliant’ to reach this stage in the dam’s construction: “This project has been challenging for many reasons but we can now look forward to the dam delivering the economic, social and environmental benefits to future generations of Tasman and Nelson residents. Thanks to all those working for Fulton Hogan, Taylors Contracting and Waimea Water Limited – your collective efforts are greatly appreciated. “

Murray King, Chair of Waimea Irrigators, hailed the achievement of this milestone as "awesome." He emphasized the importance of the reservoir being filled to ensure a sufficient water supply for the community during the upcoming summer season, particularly considering the anticipated dry El Niño summer. King believes that the dam's progress will alleviate concerns and offer relief to the region by replenishing the Waimea River and aquifers by the year's end.

The second of two stop logs being installed to close the Waimea Community Dam culvert. Image courtesy Waimea Water