The government is suggesting it might change the law to override the Supreme Court ruling blocking the controversial Ruataniwha Dam project.
Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry had previously allowed 22ha of Ruahine Forest Park to be exchanged for 170ha of a nearby farm. The Ruahine land, which Barry had said was of low conservation value, would then be flooded once the dam was built.
Environmental group Forest & Bird successfully challenged the land-swap in the Environment Court in 2016. Barry appealed that decision earlier this year, resulting in the latest Supreme Court ruling that that land-swap was not lawful.
“The Supreme Court has confirmed that our forest parks belong to the people of New Zealand and are protected by the Conservation Act,” said Forest & Bird’s chief executive Kevin Hague.
However, the Government is now considering a law change to make such land-swaps lawful.
“National is being disingenuous by claiming the conservation estate will gain from the exchange of protected forest for private land. This ignores the fact that the private land in this case is not threatened, so if we lose part of the Ruahine Forest there will be a net loss of native bush and habitat,” said Green Party conservation spokesperson Mojo Mathers.
“This dam doesn’t stack up economically, it doesn’t stack up environmentally and it requires the destruction of habitat of threatened species. It’s time to walk away from this dam,” said Mathers.
The 22ha that would have been flooded is habitat for long tailed bats, fernbird, New Zealand falcon and rare wetlands.