Why is Maggie Barry trying to take 22ha from protected conservation land?

Who would ever have thought that a conservation minister would be going to the Supreme Court in order to remove 22ha of protected forest in order to build a dam and flood the park.

An environmental organisation is seeking support ahead of a Supreme Court hearing on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

Today environmental organisation Forest & Bird released a video showing “some of the public conservation land which will be destroyed if a land swap allowing New Zealand’s largest irrigation dam goes ahead”.

The land in question is 22ha of the Ruahine Forest Park, which has been subject to a legal battle over a proposed land swap.

In September the Court of Appeal upheld a Forest and Bird appeal which argued the land swap of the 22 hectares of the Ruahine Forest Park, for 170ha of land the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) would potentially buy from Smedley Station, was unlawful. ¬†

This would have downgraded the protected conservation status of the Ruahine Forest land to allow it to be flooded as part of the water storage scheme.

In December, the Supreme Court granted a leave of appeal requested in September from HBRIC and the Minister of Conservation, allowing to appeal the earlier Court of Appeal decision.

HBRIC is the investment arm of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council – who have placed a moratorium on the scheme until a review can be completed.

This does not impact court proceedings under way for HBRIC.

The Supreme Court hearings are set for February 27 and 28.

Forest and Bird’s video explores areas of the Ruahine Forest Park, showcasing some of the important native species and habitats known to exist within the dam’s footprint, including native bats, New Zealand falcon, and rare wetlands.

During the video the organisation states: “if Minister Maggie Barry succeeds in court, it could create a legal precedent that lets over a million hectares of conservation land in New Zealand be traded away and destroyed by business interests.”

Comment has been requested from Ms Barry.

Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague said this case was about more than Ruahine Forest Park and what would be New Zealand’s largest irrigation dam.

“It’s about all of New Zealand’s specially protected conservation areas, and whether they’re safe from commercial interests.”

“Does the government have the right to exchange parts of our conservation land, which will then be destroyed? The outcome of this case will determine whether specially protected public land can be obtained and destroyed by private businesses, or whether that land belongs to the people of New Zealand, and to the environment.”

You have to ask what Maggie Barry’s priorities are?

The dam is rooted, but Maggie Barry’s department is aiding and abetting a private organisation’s attempts to remove 22ha from the Ruahine Forest Park.

This particular issue shows how utterly flawed the whole dam proposal was in the first place. The plans never considered for one moment that taking 22ha of a forest park would have been problematic. It beggars belief that the Conservation minister is allowing her department to waste taxpayers money on a  forlorn appeal.

The council has changed, the dam is a dead duck and this court action should be too. If Conservation succeeds in their appeal then they should name the bay where the taken land would have been Maggie’s Folly, so her actions will be remembered for years to come.

 

-HB Today

 


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