6 Oct 2015

Dam legal challenge delay possible

3:36 pm on 6 October 2015

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council's investment company HBRIC says it doesn't want to speculate on the impact any legal challenge to a conservation land swap will have on timeframes for the Ruataniwha Dam.

HBRIC has reached a land exchange agreement with the Department of Conservation where the protected status of 22 hectares of Ruahine Forest Park will be revoked in return for 170 hectares of Smedley Station being incorporated into the park.

Some irrigation already takes place on Ruataniwha Plains.

Some irrigation already takes place on Ruataniwha Plains. Photo: RNZ / Peter Fowler

The land is an essential part of the proposed dam's reservoir but Forest and Bird said it considered the land swap to be illegal and was considering a legal challenge against DoC's decision.

HBRIC Chief Executive Andrew Newman said DoC ran a very rigourous process and the land exchange offered significant added conservation benefits to the area.

"We are impressed by the thoroughness of the decision both in process and in substance and it's a clear case where the conservation values of the Ruahine Forest Park are enhanced by this land swap," Mr Newman said.

"That's unequivocal in our view but it means, in terms of all the other work streams, we are just moving on. What I would say too is it offers an opportunity for us to constructively engage with various conservation groups in this community around both the positive elements of the exchange - the work that might arise from that - as well as other elements of the scheme where we can improve the environmental values.

"(DOC's decision) is really robust both in process and substance. It's up to Forest and Bird in terms of the action they do or don't want to take. I'd simply encourage them particularly locally to engage with us in doing positive work as opposed to further legal exercises."

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