Upset over dam ruling

By Simon Hendery

Fenton Wilson
Fenton Wilson

Hawke's Bay Regional Council is concerned resource consent rulings on the Ruataniwha dam will in fact cause economic development to collapse in the Central Hawke's Bay.

A board of inquiry decision, delivered as part of this week's resource consent ruling has upset HBRC chairman Fenton Wilson saying Hawke's Bay needed a regime allowing for regional economic development.

"Waipukurau and Waipawa - the place is half empty now. What's it going to be? Last one out turn the light off?" he said.

"We want clean rivers but we want the place to grow."

Regional council chief executive Liz Lambert said although the board of inquiry was taking submissions on its draft decision before issuing a final ruling, the scope of what it would consider was narrow.

The board's decision could only be appealed on points of law, not on whether the right balance had been reached between environmental standards and economic development.

"You've just had one of the highest decision-making bodies available to you in New Zealand reach a landing point about where they see the balance being so that's not a point of law."

Less than a day after celebrating the board of inquiry's draft decision granting approval for the Ruataniwha dam and Central Hawke's Bay irrigation scheme, council staff yesterday fronted up to a regional council committee meeting to outline concerns over associated changes made by the board to the regional resource management plan.

The changes, known as Plan Change 6, set environmental rules and standards for the Tukituki River catchment, the area that would be affected by the Ruataniwha scheme.

The council's strategic development group manager, Helen Codlin, told yesterday's meeting of the corporate and strategic committee that early analysis of the Plan Change 6 ruling suggested it would have "significant implications for current activities" by farmers and growers in the catchment.

The changes apply nutrient limits, minimum river flow requirements and restrictions on water takes. One outcome would be that "significant reductions of nitrate leaching is going to be required," Ms Codlin said.

The plan change would also require about 1000 farmers to implement farm environmental management plans.

Andrew Newman, chief executive of Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC), the council's investment arm that has been pushing the Ruataniwha development, said more work needed to be done on how the plan change ruling would affect demand for water from the scheme. Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson said the board's decision represented a significant win for freshwater management.

"We all want a strong and vibrant economy, but public opinion clearly shows that New Zealanders will not tolerate unfettered economic growth... that have a detrimental impact on their environment and their waterways."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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