Dodgy Socialist Dam proposal heads back to court

The Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s dodgy socialist dam proposal is heading back to court, likely for another spanking of the council.

Opponents of the dam haven’t lost in court yet.

Forest and Bird says it will legally challenge the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) plans to downgrade the status of specially protected conservation park land in Hawke’s Bay so it can be flooded for the Ruataniwha Dam.

DOC announced recently it would deregister the protected land so the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment company HBRIC could use it for the $600 million water storage project.

DOC plans to swap the 22 hectares of Ruahine Forest Park land for private land on nearby Smedley Station.   

The land is home to several threatened species, including the New Zealand Falcon, long tailed bat and fernbird.

Forest and Bird said it believes that the land-swap was unlawful, as DOC had the power to swap stewardship land, but not specially protected conservation park land.

It said the issue went far beyond Hawke’s Bay and set a precedent for all specially protected conservation land, which included forest parks, conservation parks, and ecological and wilderness areas.

I predicted this a couple of months back when I attended a meeting in Napier about the dam and the council was insisting that they could take DoC land in a swap despite already getting caned for the proposal in court.

Forest & Bird are holding DoC and the Council to the law. They are likely to win again.

Word is there are several other legal challenges to the dam in the pipe line.

Time, meanwhile, is ticking away on the Council’s own promises to lock in contracts to proceed. Money is ebbing away and unless the council extends the deadline and funding this dam proposal is actually doomed.


– RadioNZ


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  • Damon Mudgway

    Boy, this sure seems to be sucking up a ton of dosh in the Courts. I love that in NZ you can keep throwing dollar after dollar after dollar at lost causes. Democracy is beautiful.

  • Peter

    I really love that in NZ a project that will move the region and the country forward economically and environmentally can be railroaded and made more expensive by a minority. We really are a cup half empty nation sometimes.

    • It won’t move a region forward. The whole project business case is flawed from the get go.

      1. The cost of water is based on an assumed milk price of $10, when it is barely over $4.
      2. It requires the destruction of 22ha of protected DoC land.
      3. It is to be built on a fault line.
      4. No actual goal post has been met int he project, but most importantly nowhere near enough farmers have signed up for the expensive water contracts.
      5. The plan has lost every court battle along the way…there is a clear indicator at how the dam proposal breaks numerous laws and regulations.
      6. It will not and cannot possibly improve river flows, the plan even states that it will poison the Tukituki not help it.

      That is just a short summary…there are many more flaws int he plan, and I haven’t even mentioned the millions of dollars of subsidies by ratepayers for just a few farmers or the fact that millions more have been wasted on a travesty of a plan, that was doomed from the start.

  • Ruahine

    Win or Lose it is a clever make work scheme with good remuneration for some lucky people at the expense of the local ratepayers. Most are not farmers local or otherwise.

  • Peter

    1. Its not just for dairy farmers. Its not just for Dairy Farmers. The scheme is for croppers, orchardists, dairy, and other people looking for surety in their business. Water guarantees ad lifts productivity; Cost – benefit analysis shows a return, just not the short term payback private investors look for. This is the reason why govt should support the scheme, like power stations etc.
    2. Exchange of 22ha of DOC land for other is a sensible and proven practice.
    3.Everything in NZ is on a fault line
    4. Rural HB has had its share of knocks. They are cautious by nature. If it is built they will come.
    5. Ahh I sort of disagree with this. Not a case of ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ here, more a case of sorting out terms I would have thought.
    6. All indications are that river quality will improve. At the least taking water during winter, and then putting it in during summer is a pretty good start. Stopping existing consent holders taking water during summer is a good plan. Instituting management practices to stop nutrient influx to the river is a good plan…

    Time will tell.

    • axeman

      I agree Pete, to me it just makes good sense to store water, with a typical drought forecasted for HB due to El Nino I think you will see the take up of farmers increase substantially. I have heard that the a large number of users actually intend to use the water for cropping.
      In regards to the fault line I don’t know much about that stuff but isn’t Wellington built on fault lines and Auckland on volcano’s?
      The Tuki has recently had a good flush but that would be the first in over 12 months.

      • rua kenana

        Good sense to store water?
        In Ruataniwha case the question is whether or not it makes good economic sense, which includes the costs of taking all relevant matters into account. I don’t think any unbiased study has been done that justifies this project.

    • 1. The assumptions are heroic, almost impossible to achieve.
      2. It is against the law…that is why they keep losing.
      6. The nutrient plan increases pollution in the river.

      Why can’t they build the dam and improve water quality instead of degrading it.

      if the business case stacks up then create a company and list it, put the proposition ti investors…oh wait they all walked away after realising the assumptions and plans were heroic.

  • Peter

    Its pretty obvious that many rural communities in NZ have been dying. Why – no jobs. Yet rural industry powers our economy. Our land is one of our few sustainable resources.
    Water can revitalise a local economy. I am currently working up North. In this area dairy farms, orchards, and cropping operations were suffering and closing up because they could not produce enough to break even or move forwards. The school roll had fallen and families had moved away. The place was not in good shape.
    Two years ago water was found in the area. Now more than 500ha is under development – growing Avocados. Like kiwifruit there is a huge and growing market for Avocados. The result is that the local economy is slowly lifting, young families are moving back into the area, and the area faces a bright future. All and only because there is water available that guarantees that Avocados can be grown.

  • Peter

    I almost have to laugh. The Dairy farmers with irrigation are fine thank you, even with El Nino, and the low payout. They are sustaining production through the season and their costs are low and constant relative to farms needing to import feed. They can make plans without gambling on the weather.
    Feed production grazed system with good rainfall: around 8 – 12 cents per kilo Dry Matter
    Feed production with irrigation: 15 – 18 cents per kilo of Dry Matter.
    Imported Feed: 25 – 50 cents + per kilo of Dry matter.
    The farmers needing to import feed will likely be drying off their herds early this year. Some will kill some or all of their herds. It will take a while for them to recover after this season. Not good for them and certainly not good for NZ…

    • Peter why don’t you declare your vested interest. I really don’t like people pushing agendas without declarations. You are hardly an impartial commenter.

  • Peter

    At the moment the only people laughing will be the lawyers. Wouldn’t have this problem in other countries….

    • Dave

      Rubbish Peter, pop back later I will show you a data set showing just how little rain we have had up here in Nth Qld, and still no dams. A friend out past Winton (approx 800 km West Sth west of Townsville has over 20,000 HA and just under 200 head on it, as there is NO water. They have a big bore, it’s over a km deep, but the water has a high salinity and it comes out at over 65 deg C, almost unusable, the stock can drink it, but it is not suitable for grass.

      • Peter

        Fair comment. :)

  • Peter

    Hi Cam, Yes I guess I do have a ‘vested interest’. As per previous dialogue on this I have a small rural water company and have a particular interest in farm dairy effluent, land treatment of waste water, and pastoral irrigation. I have been following the scheme with interest as I was living and working in HB when the idea was first put into the public arena and have friends both for and against the scheme. I’ve also read some of the reports, and performed ROI analyses for a few (cropping not dairy) farmers, which did show a real return on their investment. Unfortunately I will probably not get involved further as I really need to focus on work more local to where I live in the BOP. In any event there are some pretty good local providers down there who would likely get first opportunity. HB in particular favors locals over outsiders!

    • Bruno 32

      Great comments Peter. Nothing wrong with having a vested interest of seeing rural economies thrive.
      Having to pay back principal over 30 years makes it very difficult. The banks need to come up with loans that are inter-generational. 70 to 100 year term with interest only for as long as it takes to set things up.
      My water has allowed me to look at record low milk prices and El nino straight in the eye and make the most of these opportunities.

      • Peter

        Thank you for that Bruno