West Coast wetlands rules back in court

09 May 2011

Forest & Bird was in the High Court last month to fight an appeal by the West Coast Regional Council that if successful could open the way for greater destruction of wetlands on the coast.

Forest & Bird, along with the Department of Conservation and West Coast-based Friends of Shearer Swamp, last year won an appeal in the Environment Court, which required the council to recognise a wider range of wetlands as being significant, and therefore worthy of protection.

We successfully argued that the existing regional plan failed to recognise the
significance of many wetlands, allowing them to be destroyed, mostly to expand dairy farming.

But the council appealed the decision and the case was heard by the High Court in Christchurch just before Easter.

The hearing took place at the Riccarton Racecourse, due to the closure of the High Court building in the central city after February’s earthquake.

Forest & Bird Environmental Lawyer Erika Toleman said the High Court’s decision is likely to be delivered before the Environment Court resumes its case in August.

The Environment Court is still to consider the appeal by Forest & Bird and its allies over the provisions, objectives, policies and rules covering wetlands in the West Coast regional plan.

The interim decision by the Environment Court in September last year covered only the issue of what should be considered a significant wetland.