Greenpeace to challenge extensions to Ruataniwha dam plan

  • North Island: East Coast

Greenpeace NZ is launching a legal challenge against an extension to a proposed Ruataniwha dam that the environmental group claims is set to cost almost $1 billion in total.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council describes the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme as a long-term sustainable water supply solution for Central Hawke’s Bay.  Its part of a wider programme to manage water resources in the Tukituki Catchment. 

The scheme will consist of a 93 million m³ storage reservoir located in the upper Makaroro River, storing water during periods of high flow and over winter.

Today, Greenpeace will file a judicial review to challenge resource consents granted by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to extend the land area that can be irrigated by the Ruataniwha scheme.

The motion, to be lodged at the High Court in Napier, challenges two resource consents given to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company without public notification. They were based on a Council assessment that any environmental effects would be no more than “minor”.

Greenpeace’s agriculture campaigner, Genevieve Toop, describes the move to grant the consents without notifying the public as “inconceivable”.

“The public are being asked to fork out hundreds of millions of dollars on a dam that will cause more industrial dairy farming and more pollution of our rivers. It's just wrong that the public, who will lose out on clean rivers thanks to the dam, have been shut out of this process,” she says.

Greenpeace’s legal challenge comes less than a year after 17 original consents were granted to the investment company by a Board of Inquiry.  

That process saw significant public interest and opposition and involved almost 400 submissions and close to 30,000 pages of evidence, many about the risks to water quality in the area.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is aware of the action by Greenpeace to seek a judicial review of its decision to not publicly notify the resource consents for the extension.

In a media statement the council states, “At the time the Council thoroughly considered the situation and its legal responsibilities.  The extension was just that, a modest extension, of an already consented scheme.

Council staff undertook a notification assessment for the resource consents, as it does with every application and this was legally reviewed. It concluded consents were not required to be publicly notified.  The assessment was that the effects of an extension to the irrigation zone were minor and that no parties were considered affected.” 

Toop says, “Rather than backing this dam and the broken industrial dairy farming model, this council should be investing in ecological farming, which is infinitely better for our rivers, our land, and our international reputation.”