Board of Inquiry Decision a Win for Freshwater

A Board of Inquiry draft decision released today has imposed further conditions on the Ruataniwha Dam scheme in Hawkes Bay much to the satisfaction of environmental lobby group Forest & Bird.

Forest & Bird along with Fish & Game and the Environmental Defence Society successfully appealed to the High Court challenging a previous decision by the Inquiry Board which removed a condition requiring farmers using water from the dam to meet an in-stream nitrogen limit.

Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says the limit is designed to protect ecosystem health, and is already exceeded in many parts of the catchment downstream of the Dam’s irrigation zones.

“Further conditions include requiring reporting on the contribution of nitrogen from the scheme and comparison with actual instream nitrogen and the nitrogen limit.”

“Where landowners supplied by the scheme are contributing to the nitrogen limit being exceeded, the decision now requires the consent holder to identify specific actions taken by landowners to ensure that the nitrogen limit is reached by 2030.” said Kevin Hackwell.

The draft decision also allows the Council to review “on farm” nitrogen leaching limits and reduce these if necessary to ensure the target is achieved.

“These were conditions we were asking for right from the start, any proposals for intensification in the TukiTuki valley are going to have the meet new nitrogen requirements to protect the river.” Said Kevin Hackwell.

“In light of this draft decision it would be irresponsible for the Regional Council to commit ratepayers’ money, or to sign up farmers, to the scheme without having proved to their satisfaction that the formidable reductions in nitrogen pollution were possible.”

Comments on the draft decision close on 15 May 2015 after which the Board of Inquiry will release its final decision.