The Court of Appeal has ruled on Forest & Bird's appeal against the Ruataniwha Dam, finding that the Department of Conservation could not trade protected land unless it no longer needed to be protected:
The future of the proposed Ruataniwha water storage scheme is uncertain after the Court of Appeal found the Director-General of Conservation was not entitled to revoke the special conservation status of Ruahine Forest Park land.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company had agreed to exchange 22 hectares of Ruahine Forest Park land for 170 ha of nearby farmland known as the Smedley block.
In order to create a reservoir behind the dam, the flooding of the 22 hectares of the DOC land was required.
Forest and Bird lawyer Sally Gepp said she was "ecstatic" over the decision because it had confirmed the fundamental tenet of the Conservation Act to safeguard specially protected areas.
If the ruling stands, it won't just kill the dam, but also National's policy of trying to crack open reserves for development through an ideology of "net conservation gain". The Court of Appeal has affirmed that the law simply does not support that policy. In the process, it has also called some of DoC's past land-swaps (for example, with the Porter ski field) into doubt.