Forest & Bird slams credibility of 'independent' review into dam scheme

Forest & Bird has slammed the credibility of an ‘independent’ Hawke’s Bay Regional Council review into the controversial Ruataniwha dam and irrigation scheme.

It has emerged today that, as part of the review, council staff have sought legal advice on the dam project from the same law firm that is acting for dam company HBRIC.

The Council is due to present details of the scope of the review at today’s Council meeting. In advance of today’s Council meeting, Council staff have sought legal advice on the merits of the dam company’s bid to overturn the Court of Appeal’s decision on the land swap.

“Forest & Bird is shocked that the advice was provided by the same law firm that is acting for HBRIC in the land swap matter.” said Forest & Bird lawyer Sally Gepp.

“Unsurprisingly, the legal advice is that the appeal is likely to succeed. This law firm could hardly advise otherwise, given its legal duty to the dam company”.

A key legal issue that the review will look into is HBRIC’s failure to secure the land that it needs to flood for the dam’s reservoir. The reservoir would flood part of the Ruahine Forest Park, which is public conservation land. The Court of Appeal ruled in August that the land swap was illegal, following a successful legal challenge by Forest & Bird.

“Forest & Bird support the incoming Regional Councillors for ordering this review, but we sincerely hope they will ask their staff some hard questions about whether the review will actually be independent or is just intended to confirm entrenched views that the dam must proceed regardless of the cost or merits” says Amelia Geary, Forest & Bird’s Hawke’s Bay Regional Conservation Manager.