Fish & Game wins again over Ruataniwha Dam

  • 26/06/2015

Fish & Game is welcoming as a “significant victory” the Ruataniwha Board of Inquiry’s final decision on the conditions which would govern the controversial Hawkes Bay dam and irrigation project.

The Board of Inquiry had to reconsider its initial decision after Fish & Game and its environmental allies won a High Court appeal in December against it.

In the Board’s final decision released today, it has confirmed a nitrogen limit of 0.8 mg/l in waterways in the Tukituki catchment. The Board says that nitrogen limit is already exceeded in large parts of the catchment and has given the Hawke's Bay Regional Council until 2030 to meet it.

The level must be monitored and reported each year.

Fish & Game says the Board’s ruling is a victory for environmental common sense.

“The environment can’t be sacrificed to satisfy a few developers”, said Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson.

“Spending more than half a billion dollars on Ruataniwha to establish intensive agriculture in an unsuitable area defies logic. Such thinking means the environment inevitably becomes the casualty,” he said.

Fish & Game’s Environmental Manager Corina Jordan says today’s decision is a significant victory for the environment.

“The 2030 deadline for meeting the 0.8 nitrogen limit in waterways is a good decision,” Ms Jordan said.

“It recognises that large parts of the catchment are already over this limit and sets a trajectory of improvement to meet the limit at a defined point in the future.

“The important thing is that nitrogen limits have been set and that everyone must meet them,” she said.

“Hawkes Bay farmers have been told by the dam’s backers that if they invest in the scheme, they will be exempt from complying with those limits. The Board of Inquiry has today made it abundantly clear that simply isn’t true.

“Farmers need to be aware they will have to comply with the limits and the Hawkes Bay Regional Council needs to acknowledge it will be held accountable for ensuring that compliance,” she said.

Bryce Johnson said the High Court case and the Ruataniwha Board of Inquiry’s decision should give irrigation scheme supporters serious pause for thought.

“Farmers and other potential Ruataniwha Dam investors need to think carefully about going ahead, as does the Hawkes Bay Regional Council” he said.

Mr Johnson also believes today’s decision has implications for the Wellington Regional Council’s proposed Wairarapa irrigation scheme.

“The Wellington Regional Council should think long and hard about what these developments mean for its Wairarapa plans. The Resource Management Act demands local bodies be guardians of the environment, not advocating for irrigation schemes.

“The country’s long-suffering ratepayers shouldn’t be paying for these financially dubious scheme,” he said.

The Ruataniwha Dam ran into controversy when its backers, the Hawkes Bay Regional Council, proposed adopting a nutrient control plan which would have made the Tukituki River toxic to fish life.

There was further controversy with accusations the Department of Conservation had been muzzled and prevented from voicing its initial opposition to the plan.

Economists have also questioned if the dam is financially viable.

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