Friday, September 30, 2016

Return of the zombie dam

Back in August, the Court of Appeal dealt an apparent death-blow to the Ruataniwha irrigation project, ruling that the Department of Conservation couldn't downgrade conservation land to allow it to be built. Now, Hawke's Bay Regional Council is attempting to bypass the ruling by trying to acquire the land under the Public Works Act:

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council intends to try to acquire conservation land for the Ruataniwha water scheme even if an appeal to the Supreme Court fails.

Now the council's investment company, which is responsible for the scheme, has applied to become a requiring authority over the formerly-protected land, which includes the reservoir and dam footprint area.

The council needs requiring authority in order to be able to apply to the Minister for Land Information to compulsorily acquire the land under the Public Works Act.

The investment company's chief executive, Andy Pearce, said it was exploring all options available.

Which is going to lead to another legal shitfight over whether the Public Works Act trumps the Conservation Act, and (if that is the case) over the facts justifying compulsory acquisition. Because for a protected conservation area, you'd expect an elevated bar, something beyond merely "some farmers want to make a profit by destroying the environment".

(And of course this seems like a perfect opportunity for a Members Bill to make protected conservation land immune to such seizure...)