Forest & Bird successfully defends NZ conservation land in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled that New Zealand's publicly owned Forest Parks and other conservation land are safe from being disposed of for private development interests.

The Supreme Court confirmed today the Minister of Conservation acted illegally by trying to make part of Ruahine Forest Park available for exchange to a dam company, which would flood it.

Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague says "This decision is wonderful news for Ruahine and all Forest Parks around the country. New Zealanders have fought for generations to defend our conservation land and now we have legal confirmation that are protected from private development interests.

"The Government went all the way to the Supreme Court to allow the downgrade and exchange of part of Ruahine Forest Park, which would have led to the destruction of that land. The Supreme Court has confirmed that our forest parks belongs to the people of New Zealand and are protected by the Conservation Act,” says Mr Hague.

In August 2016, Forest & Bird successfully challenged a Department of Conservation decision to downgrade the conservation status of part of the Ruahine Forest Park in Hawke's Bay, to allow it to be swapped for private land and flooded as part of the Ruataniwha scheme.

Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry, alongside dam company Hawkes Bay Regional Investment Company, sought to overturn that decision in the Supreme Court.

"This decision is a major victory for all of New Zealand's Forest Parks and specially protected conservation lands," says Mr Hague.

“Forest & Bird supporters have worked for years, often on a voluntary basis, to get to this point.

“We now look to the Government to respect the Supreme Court’s decision and the integrity of New Zealand’s specially protected conservation lands. Any attempt to change the law will be met with the same determination from Forest & Bird as the Minister of Conservation’s illegal land-swap was."

The 22 hectares of land that would have been destroyed by the Ruataniwha irrigation project has high conservation values. Long tailed bats, fernbird, New Zealand falcon, and rare wetlands all exist with the dam's footprint. The Supreme Court decision confirms that protected conservation land such as Ruahine Forest Park cannot be disposed of through land-swaps.

Images of site and court ruling for media