06, Jul, 2017

Congratulations on Court Decision to Protect Ruataniwha Conservation Land

Category: ECO Inc

The Environment and Conservation Organisations, ECO, welcomes the Supreme Court decision protecting land in Ruahine Forest Park and congratulates Forest and Bird on the verdict and all those who have worked to protect public conservation land.

ECO Co-chairperson, Barry Weeber, said the Supreme Court has made an important interpretation of the Conservation Act.  He warned Conservation Minister Maggie Barry not to support the government changing the law to dodge the Supreme Court decision. 

When the Conservation Act was passed in 1987 and amended in 1989,  Parliament agreed with ECO and other conservation groups that the Crown should not be able to dispose of specially protected conservation land.

“This Supreme Court decision is principled and should rightly mean an end to the Ruataniwha Dam proposal.”  The decision will be welcomed by people all over the country.

“We pay particular tribute to Forest and Bird and to the people and groups in the Hawkes Bay who have opposed the Dam in order to protect threatened species and native forest,” said Weeber.

“As noted in the Supreme Court decision, nationally significant conservation values would be lost in any dam-induced inundation.  The Court also noted that no one is arguing that the 22 ha of protected land are  not appropriate to include in the Forest Park.”

“The Court also ruled that the Minister (and any delegated decision maker) has to consider the statutory plans and policies.  These include the Conservation Management Strategy and the national conservation policies.“

“It will be a relief to groups and individuals throughout the country who have submitted to the Department of Conservation on plans, strategies and policies that the the Minister and officials  cannot ignore these in key decisions.”

“The Prime Minister and the Minister of Conservation should think again about proposing to change conservation law to facilitate private business like the Ruataniwha Dam at the expense of the conservation land held in the public trust, says Cath Wallace, vice-chair of ECO and a former senior lecturer in the School of Government and  in Environmental Policy at Victoria University of Wellington.

“The proposal to change conservation land status by special legislation will be strongly opposed.”

“The Minister of Conservation should not ignore the significant conservation values at risk.  She must give effect to the legal obligations under conservation law to protect conservation land and not to allow it to be traded away.”

“To change the law now would continue the recurring pattern of the government arrogantly removing environmental protection.  The government has already made a whole lot of changes in Resource management and other laws to make it harder for the environment to be protected and for community input,” said Cath Wallace.

Conservation and environmental management is being increasingly made to favour economic interests not nature and human enjoyment of it.

It is at the point where this must stop or our environment and conservation will become even more degraded.  “This is stealing from the public and the future”, said Cath Wallace.

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As the Supreme Court reports (at Para 6):

“Advice provided to the Department concerning ecological values and effects of the proposed easement described the entire 22 hectares as “threatened”, and areas within it as “acutely threatened” or “chronically threatened”.  Of concern in terms of the national priorities for biodiversity protection were the oxbow wetland on the true right of Dutch Creek, and a small portion of land on the true left of the Makaroro River adjacent to and including braided river gravels, a nationally rare ecosystem.  The land also contains habitat for a nationally vulnerable species (the North Island long-tailed bat) and declining species (North Island fernbird and red mistletoe). The ecological advice concluded that “[t]here is no doubt, therefore, that the areas of indigenous habitat which are subject to the proposal contain significant ecological values within a national context”.”


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