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National's Ruataniwha 'Mill-stone'

Nothing is surer than that the Ruataniwha Dam debacle will come back to bite National at next year's election. The utter hubris that appears to engulf Cabinet on the subject became clear this week with the cunning attempt by 'Mother of the Nation,' (and DoC Minister) - Maggie Barry, to side-step the recent successful appeal against DoC's attempted "swap" of 22ha of "specially protected" conservation park land to enable the resovoir behind the dam to proceeed.

Fortunately, Hawkes Bay Today columnist - Bruce Bisset, has consistently reported on all of the connivances employed by the Regional Council CCC - Hawkes Bay Development Company (HBDC) to get the Dam 'over the line.'

Just when the whole scheme appeared 'dead in the water' last week, out came Maggie B. with Government support for taking the matter to the Court of Appeal where they clearly think they will have a more sympathetic hearing, and at the same time, with any luck, bankrupt their 'fly in the ointment' - Forest & Bird, who simply "don't understand the need for farmers to get more water," regardless of the increased polution. 

Here is Bruce's article (inter alia):

"After all, National is fixated on the industrial farming model and see nothing wrong with polluted only-wadeable rivers and forcibly-chlorinated drinking water if it means being able to use our precious resources to churn out more cheap bulk commodities.

Whether the world needs them or not. And whether our farmers go broke producing them while our clean green image gets covered in excrement, or not. 

So Conservation Minister Maggie Barry’s decision to front a challenge to the Court of Appeal’s ruling that conservation park land cannot be given away willy-nilly was the next logical – albeit deplorable – step to take to try to get the RWSS over the line.

Deplorable because this is a scheme which has been amply shown to have no redeeming features economically, socially or environmentally, and which should now be quietly buried in the white elephant graveyard – yet is instead being used to force a precedent that will put all so-called “protected” land at risk.

Taking DoC land would require the connivance of a Minister of Conservation willing to “downgrade” the land in question by revoking its existing status so as to enable it to be taken for a public work.

However, there is one snag in this cunning scheme, which is that the 22ha is not merely a “conservation area” but is part of a “specially protected” area: the Ruahine Forest Park.

Since the park is a 40-year old legal entity in its own right it seems to me Ms Barry would face the fraught task of having to revoke the status of the entire 932.6sq km of said park in order to then carve off the 22ha HBRIC wants so that it could take that bit for it reservoir.

Would she – or rather, John Key’s Government – go so far as to enrage every even half-aware conservationist by doing something so drastic? With an election year coming up, and bearing in mind it would be a publicly notified process, I doubt it; but we shall see."

I guess you can understand the determination of the promoters - they should be used to losing by now, but clearly feel that they have Government on their side, and paying the legal bills, and what is more, thay have set their hearts on winning this for so long that it is hard to give up now.

It will surely drag out until the election, with unforeseen consequences for the Government. Unless nest weekend's results sees the over-throw of the current Hawkes Bay Regional Council membership - it would only take the loss of one vote for the whole scheme to 'crash,' and then I don't think there would remain anything the Government could do to overcome the road-block, excepting a brutal, and final decision based on the Public Works Act. A public reaction to such a move is almost inevitable, and likely  to be electorily disastrous for National, in my opinion. This farmer rump believe itself to be beyond reproach - big mistake!

Irrigation, and aquaculture remain really weak links in the current Government's long-term economic development strategy. Strange that this has parallel echoes locally. 




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Reader Comments (1)

The current Government are like a dog with a bone on this project and have taken a very ideological approach to supporting this ill thought out project. Obviously have given very strong signals to HBRC via HBDC that they want this and these Council lackeys have in turn been determined to persevere in the face of mounting evidence of a commercial, scientific and now legal hue that the Dam is dead.

Essentially a esoteric argument about being able to increase production and wealth and remain "environmentally sustainable". To do so all you need to so is lower environmental standards see. If you have limits then well that means limiting wealth production and that is anathema. Can not be allowed to happen.

Worked in Canterbury it must work elsewhere seems to be the motto. There they rolled ECAN to do so and no doubt HBRC took note of that.

Similar pressure was brought to bear against WRC to stump up for the Avantidrome, although wonderful facility that it is.

October 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

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