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Greens dam Tukituki decision

15 April 2014

Greens dam Tukituki decision

With the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council actively promoting the Ruataniwha dam scheme and the Government suppressing important information on its potential impacts, it is not surprising that the Ministerially appointed panel has agreed to it the scheme, the Green Party said today.

Ms Sage presented a submission to the Board of Inquiry, outlining the Green Party’s opposition to the proposal.

“The proposed Ruataniwha dam is New Zealand’s largest irrigation scheme. The Government identified the proposal as being nationally significant and justifying a Board of Inquiry, yet suppressed the Department of Conservation’s 32 page submission on the proposal which outlined severe ecological and water quality concerns with the scheme,” said Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

Freshwater scientists such as Dr Russel Death who gave evidence concluded that “Increased agricultural intensification planned with the Ruataniwha scheme, even with the proposed mitigation strategies, will result in a further degradation of those waterbodies.”

“Expert evidence from Fish and Game highlighted how the scheme will keep the environment, and often farmers, at the brink of disaster as they push the land and waterways harder in an effort to maximise production. These systems risk farmers being stuck on the treadmill of huge debt and ever increasing production to service that debt,” said Ms Sage.

“The Board’s decision to significantly increase the amount of water which irrigators can take from the Ruataniwha aquifer risks repeating Canterbury’s mistakes where overuse of groundwater has depleted and reduced the flows in spring fed streams and seen them polluted with nutrients.

“There are also serious questions about the business case for the dam given a previous Treasury report which questioned the farm gate financial viability of irrigation schemes.

“Trustpower’s withdrawal as an investor means the $254 million cost of the scheme ($650 million if on-farm costs are included) is relying on massive public subsidies from Government via its Crown Irrigation Company and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to proceed.

“It looks like the scheme proponents are ignoring any evidence that contradicts their vision for a big dam, and are just charging on ahead.

“The only plus in the decision is the Board’s rejection of the proposal to only control one nutrient through plan rules. Requiring the management of both nitrogen and phosphorous is a win for the environment, yet the scale of the land use change which the dam will result in will mean that the rules are unlikely to stop river pollution.

“New Zealanders want to be able to swim in our rivers. The Ruataniwha dam scheme will mean more intensive agriculture and more pollution leaching into our waterways; and potentially depleted aquifers.

“We need to be investing in smart sustainable farming, that produces high value products not putting the Tukituki River and local aquifers at risk and forcing farmers to get deeper in debt to convert and take water from the scheme,” said Ms Sage.

ENDS

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