Discovery of nationally threatened snails prompts appeal of Lee Dam proposal

The recent discovery of a population of nationally threatened snails has heightened Forest & Bird’s concerns about a dam proposed for the Lee River in Tasman District.

Forest & Bird is appealing the granting of resource consent to Waimea Community Dam Ltd in its entirety and, if consent is confirmed, is seeking better conditions to protect the habitat.

Debs Martin, Nelson Regional Conservation & Volunteer Manager, says the consent will allow for serious loss of biodiversity in the ecological region, part of which includes a Conservation Park.

A Forest & Bird survey by snail experts last week established the presence of a population of Wainuia nasuta, a nationally threatened land snail, in the area to be flooded.

“The survey results highlight the inadequacy of environmental surveys undertaken by the dam’s backers. Both the applicant and hearing commissioners disregarded Forest & Bird’s evidence about the presence of snails,” said Debs Martin.

“Until snail experts understand more about the snail population’s distribution within the dam footprint, and whether or not anything can be done to ensure this species’ long term future, resource consent should not be granted.”

Another threatened species found in the area where flooding is proposed is a nationally critical native plant, Shovel mint. The dam would wipe out a quarter of its population. “Nationally critical” is the last stage before a species becomes extinct.

Under the proposed scheme, 35.7 hectares of significant indigenous vegetation, including rare lowland alluvial and riparian forest, and riparian turf will also be lost.

“Only 1% of lowland podocarp forest remains in the ecological district, making this area extremely rare and important,” said Ms Martin. “If this resource consent is to go ahead, we would be seeking conditions that avoid, remedy or mitigate the adverse effects on the ecological area.”

Forest & Bird called evidence at the hearing about the national significance of the adverse ecological effects of the project.

“There has been no attempt to avoid adverse effects on the most significant ecological values (alluvial forest and shovel mint) at the site, and proposed mitigation of these effects is either extremely uncertain or vastly insufficient, if it is at all possible to address these losses,” said Ms Martin.

“With the discovery of yet another threatened species in the footprint, we would be negligent as a region priding itself on our biodiversity if we were to proceed with a dam in this location.”