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Groups hit back at Irrigation NZ and PM's re: Ruataniwha

Media Release: Environment groups hit back at Irrigation New Zealand and Prime Minister’s statements about Ruataniwha decision

The Environmental Defence Society and Forest & Bird have hit back at media statements which suggest the Tukituki Proposal Board of Inquiry decision will “devastate farming”.

“Over the course of a six week hearing the Board heard from numerous parties and experts, including freshwater scientists and agricultural consultants. The evidence was thoroughly tested with robust cross-examination and questioning.

“On the basis of that evidence, the Board decided in favour of a dual nutrient management approach, rather than the single nutrient approach favoured by Irrigation New Zealand and other proponents of the Ruataniwha irrigation scheme.

“Having lost the argument in the official forum, it appears that Irrigation New Zealand and others are attempting to put pressure on the Board of Inquiry by re-litigating the issues in the media. This is unacceptable.

“We note that the Prime Minister, when asked if the Government would intervene, reportedly replied “We wouldn’t want to at this point. We would rather let it run its process before wading in to offer a point of view there.”(1)

“It is highly inappropriate for the Prime Minister to even suggest the Government may intervene in this issue. Given that the Board of Inquiry was appointed directly by the Government, the Prime Minister’s comments could be seen to be directed at influencing the Board to change its position. This would be unlawful.

“The Land and Water Forum brought together industry (including Irrigation New Zealand), environmental, recreational, iwi and other organisations to develop a shared vision for freshwater and land management. It concluded that land use intensification has to be subject to water quality limits that protect ecosystem health. We continue to agree with this consensus view.

“On the basis of more than 28,000 pages of material, the Board concluded that a limit of 0.8 mg/L was the highest nitrogen concentration that would protect ecosystem health while providing for sustainable agricultural land use.

“We are also concerned that statements made by Irrigation New Zealand are misleading. The NIWA report it commissioned maps rivers where the median nitrogen concentration exceeds 0.8 mg/L. However, the nitrogen limit set by the Board of Inquiry will apply to the average nitrogen concentration. In practice this is a limit that will be met more easily.

“Whether Irrigation New Zealand likes it or not, the reality is that irrigation schemes should only go ahead if they can operate within acceptable environmental limits. To do otherwise would be reckless and irresponsible."

(1) http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1405/S00952/government-watching-ruataniwha-nitrogen-limits-issue-closely.htm

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