Forest & Bird seeks High Court review of DoC land-swap

The Department of Conservation’s recent decision to give part of the Ruahine Forest Park to the company behind the controversial Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme is being taken to the High Court by Forest & Bird.

Fernbird (Photo by Craig McKenzie)

DOC recently decided to downgrade the status of the specially protected conservation park land to enable it to be exchanged for private land on nearby Smedley Station. Smedley Station is owned by the Public Trust and run as a training farm.

Forest and Bird believe that the land-swap is unlawful, as DOC has the power to swap stewardship land but not specially protected conservation park land.

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company, the investment arm of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, asked DOC to exchange land that it needs for the controversial Ruataniwha Water Storage scheme. The swap was agreed to on the 5th of October by DOC’s Director General Lou Sanson. The proposed site of the dam is on the Makaroro River, and the reservoir would flood part of the Ruahine Forest Park.

“This issue goes far beyond Hawke’s Bay and Ruahine Forest Park. It sets a precedent for all specially protected conservation land, which includes forest parks, conservation parks, and ecological and wilderness areas,” says Forest & Bird lawyer Sally Gepp.

The 22 hectares of Ruahine Forest Park to be swapped has important conservation values including an oxbow wetland, braided riverbed, threatened red mistletoe, and is home for several threatened animal species including the New Zealand falcon, fernbird and long-tailed bats.