A major victory for the conservation estate | The Jackal

6 Jul 2017

A major victory for the conservation estate

Over the last five years, Forest and Bird as well as other like-minded organisations have been battling the Department of Conservation and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council over their plans to destroy conservation land.

Today, Radio NZ reported:

Conservation land can't be destroyed for dam - Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled protected conservation land cannot be destroyed for the Ruataniwha Dam.

Forest & Bird challenged a deal between the Department of Conservation and Hawke's Bay Regional Council to acquire part of the protected Ruahine Forest Park so it could be flooded for the $900 million water storage and irrigation project.

The scheme would dam 22ha of formerly-protected land and give the Department of Conservation 170ha of nearby farmland in return.

The council's investment arm appealed to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal last year ruled the process of acquiring the land would be unlawful

In its decision, the Supreme court said the Conservation Act allowed the responsible minister to revoke protected status "only where its intrinsic conservation values no longer warrant such protection".

Despite the unequivocal clarity of the ruling it hasn’t taken the National led government long to react badly to the good news.

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

PM signals law change on land swaps after Supreme Court rules against Hawke's Bay dam

Minutes after the Supreme Court ruled against plans for a huge dam in the Hawke's Bay, Prime Minister Bill English said his Government would change the law to allow such projects to go ahead.

In a major victory for conservation group Forest & Bird, the court dismissed an appeal by the Department of Conservation to swap 22ha of conservation land for 170ha of private farmland.

The land swap would have allowed the Ruahine Forest Park land to be flooded to create the country's largest irrigation project.

English, speaking to NewstalkZB, immediately said Parliament would have to consider a law change.

How arrogant is that? Not only did the government waste an undisclosed amount of taxpayer’s money fighting against the law and good sense, they're now looking at just changing the rules to suit their environmentally destructive agenda.

Somehow I don't think English’s claims that they will simply amend the law will be that easy.

Chief executive Kevin Hague urged the Government to respect the Supreme Court's decision.

"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 court's ruling set an important precedent, he said.

"Thanks to this ruling, all of New Zealand's forest parks are protected from development. That is up to one million hectares of conservation land that have been rescued from commercial interests by this precedent-setting decision."

This really is a major victory for our conservation estate.

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries on earth and as Kiwi’s we have an obligation to protect this great country from big business interests and unscrupulous councils and governments. Thanks to this Supreme Court ruling, that task just got a bit easier.

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