Environmental groups protest Ruataniwha dam

By sophie price

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MEETING: Protesters will 'register distaste' against the Ruataniwha dam process.PHOTO/FILE
MEETING: Protesters will 'register distaste' against the Ruataniwha dam process.PHOTO/FILE

Protesters will gather at the Hawke's Bay Regional Council this Wednesday to "register their distaste" with the processes surrounding the Ruataniwha dam.

Consisting of environmental groups, including Greenpeace, and concerned ratepayers, the group will meet at the council building in Napier before the 9am meeting to voice their concerns with the way they believe the council and HBRIC have handled the water storage scheme.

CHB Forest & Bird past co-chair Dan Elderkamp said while work will keep him from the protest, people at the event would raise ire with the potential $36 million buy in and councillor Debbie Hewitt's conflict of interest issues.

"Pretty much the culture within the regional council at the moment," he said.

Concerned ratepayer Paula Fern said she was protesting because the council had left her with no other option, that she had been ignored despite her submissions to the Board of Inquiry and the council's long term plan.

She asked what else was there to do when she believed ratepayers were not being listened to.

"It is getting to that crunch time where we know that there is going to be a decision soon on the scheme," she said.

"So I want to register my distaste with the process, with the way it has been conducted and a protest is a nice, quiet way to show it."

Council chairman Fenton Wilson said while he hadn't spoken to anyone personally who was disgruntled with the process, "we will see who turns up".

He said as long as people were polite and respectful putting their point across, that was democracy.

Earlier this week Greenpeace launched a legal challenge against HBRIC, filing a judicial review of resource consents granted by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to extend the area of land area that can be irrigated by the Ruataniwha scheme, which will aid the expansion of dairy farms in the region.

The council said it was aware of the review of its decision to not publicly notify the resource consents for the extension of the command area of Ruataniwha in 2015.

A spokesman said 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.

Greenpeace's move has been welcomed by council candidate Paul Bailey who said it always seemed a little strange the council did not consider the large increase in the irrigation zones to have more than a minor effect.

"I am conscious that the resource consenting team within [the council] is entitled to make this call, however Greenpeace is well within their rights to challenge this decision," he said.

Transparent Hawke's Bay spokeswomen Meg Rose said the action being taken by Greenpeace highlights an opportunity that the regional council had as our regulator to do the right thing and notify the public of the consents.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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