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Forest & Bird supports request to call in consent

11 April 2008
Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Forest & Bird supports request to call in Mokihinui consent

Forest & Bird supports the request by West Coast councils for the Environment Minister to “call in” Meridian’s resource consent application to build a hydro dam on the Mokihinui River.

Power company Meridian has applied for resource consent to build an 85-metre-dam on the pristine river, which would flood 330 hectares of the forest-clad river gorge.

West Coast Regional Council and Buller District Council have asked Environment Minister Trevor Mallard to use his power to “call in” the application – a request supported by Forest & Bird.

Under the Resource Management Act the minister can “call in” an application for resource consent for a number of reasons, including widespread public concern and likely effects on a place of national significance.

If the application is not called in, an initial hearing would be heard by the local councils, and their decision would almost certainly be appealed to the Environment Court (either by Meridian or opponents of the application).

If the application is called in, the minister would probably appoint a board of inquiry to hear submissions and make a final decision, or could direct the matter straight to the Environment Court.

Calling in the application and having it heard by a board of inquiry is likely to reduce the cost to the community, the councils and the wider public, Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin says.

She says the Mokihinui River application is eligible to be called in on the grounds of high national importance. In the last few weeks Forest & Bird has been contacted by people from all over New Zealand, and even in Australia and Europe, about Meridian’s plan to the dam the Mokihinui River.

Mokihinui River gorge is home to more than 16 threatened native bird and fish species, including the elusive blue duck (whio). All of these species are in danger from habitat loss and predation.

The Mokihinui River gorge provides an enclave for these species amid a canopy of ancient rimu and beech forest. If Meridian’s proposal went ahead, a 330-hectare lake would drown this precious habitat.

The Government’s own list of rivers of national significance ranks the Mokihinui 7th in New Zealand for its natural values. The minister would easily be satisfied that this is a matter for national concern and scrutiny, Debs Martin says.

“If the minister does decide to call it in we would strongly urge that the local community, river users and those with wider concerns about protecting New Zealand’s declining biodiversity have the opportunity to have input into the process.”

ends

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