Topic: Water

Ngāti Kahungunu oppose law change of protected land

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Ngāti Kahungunu will oppose any proposed law changes that would see protected land be used in commercial ventures. 

This follows Prime Minister Bill English's comment that the Government would change legislation to allow such projects like the Ruataniwha Dam to go ahead.

"If they want to change the law, then, we should change the government," says Ngahiwi Tomoana, chairman of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc.

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that it is unlawful to allow 22ha of the protected Ruahine Park Forest to be flooded for the Ruataniwha water irrigation scheme.

"We were elated at the Supreme Court's decision because our stance has been validated on protecting all our waterways, our rivers like the Tukituki and the Makaroro and all our streams," he says.

The Department of Conservation wanted to swap that part of the Ruahine Forest for 170ha of nearby farmland, in a landswap deal.

"This is a bad deal for the environment and for conservation land and it would set a bad precedent for the future and we were dismayed that the government chose to keep fighting for the right to be able to destroy conservation land," says Kevin Hague, Chief Executive of Forest & Bird.

The ruling means the dam will not go ahead for now as the Hawke's Bay Regional Council wait advice from its investment company, HBRIC Ltd before it decides what its next step will be.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Chairman Rex Graham says the council’s investment company is analysing the decision and the council needs to await advice from it before it can decide what happens next.

He says the council committed to funding the scheme three years ago however, a new long-term planning cycle is getting underway, along with a capital review, which will examine all the council’s investments.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry declined to comment on the matter at this stage.