Final conditions further strengthen the suite of consent conditions for Ruataniwha Dam

Forest & Bird is welcoming the rejection of changes to the consent conditions being sought by backers of the Ruataniwha Dam in Hawke's Bay. The Board of Inquiry found the changes would “undermine the environmental outcome the condition seeks to achieve”.

In a final decision released today, the Board confirmed a consent condition that requires irrigated land associated with the Ruataniwha Scheme to be managed in a manner consistent with achieving a stringent nitrogen limit by 2030.  Much of the catchment is already well over the nitrogen limit.
 
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment arm, HBRIC, asked the Board to change that condition to an obligation for the dam company to use its “best endeavours” to meet the limit, and to compare the dam’s impact to a “baseline” of current nitrogen levels.  These moves were opposed by Forest & Bird, Fish & Game and the Environmental Defence Society. The Board found in favour of the environmental groups, confirming that:  “if the scheme is a material contributor to an exceedance of the DIN limits and targets in that table, the use component of the consents is be managed in a manner consistent with achieving those targets and limits by 31 December 2030. Hence the inclusion of Condition 12A in the draft decision.”
 
The Board found that the changes sought by HBRIC would undermine the environmental outcome the condition seeks to achieve and could not be reconciled with the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
 
The Board also inserted a new condition enabling the Regional Council to review the process for individual farmers’ Management Plans, to ensure that the Scheme is operating in a manner consistent with achieving the nitrogen limit by 2030.
 
Legal counsel for Forest & Bird, Sally Gepp, says the Board’s comments and the changes made to the final conditions further strengthen the suite of consent conditions by making it entirely clear that any farmers who sign up to take water from the dam are not exempt from the nitrogen target.  “HBRIC Chair Dr Andy Pearce has previously stated that farmers using irrigation water from the Ruataniwha Scheme are not required to manage their farming practices in a way that means that they are not contributing to a violation of the nitrogen limit by 2030.  The Board has made it perfectly clear that Dr Pearce’s interpretation is wrong, and the 2030 nitrogen limit does apply to farmers who sign up to this Scheme”, Ms Gepp said.
 
Forest & Bird is considering the remainder of the Board’s decision carefully.