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Supreme Court rejects Ruataniwha appeal - Expert reaction

Supreme Court rejects Ruataniwha appeal
Expert reaction
6 July 2017

The Supreme Court has denied an appeal to allow a land swap for the proposed Ruataniwha Dam project in the Hawke’s Bay.

The court’s decision was released today, following a Court of Appeal ruling last year that found the process of acquiring the land was unlawful.

The SMC asked an environmental policy expert to comment on the decision. Feel free to use these comments in your reporting.

Dr Ann Brower, senior lecturer in environmental policy, Lincoln University, comments:

"This is certainly an important decision for the conservation of New Zealand’s unique landscapes and biodiversity. As chair of the NZ committee for the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, I think that any other decision would have risked dire consequences for well-loved lands and threatened species.

"The Supreme Court has said that it’s not ok to 'un-conserve' public conservation land with identified ecological values just with the stroke of a pen by trading some land for other land. And un-conserving can take many forms – flooding, mining, road-building, grazing, cell-phone tower building.

"As chair of IUCN, I’d say this is a victory for conservation in the long run. It would be a brave government that legislates over the top of this decision.

"As a lecturer in environmental management, I’d say this will have consequences for the fairly common practice of biodiversity compensation and offsetting. We don’t have a clear policy guiding it, but it happens more and more – the practice of trading this habitat for that wetland restoration, or allowing degradation of this wetland in exchange for cash.

"The problem is that DOC rarely asks for this type of compensation, and then only cashes in on the compensation two-thirds of the time. So it’s not terrifically effective. This decision will require us to be much more careful about those types of exchanges, which is a good thing.

"And as a long-time researcher on high country tenure review, I’d say it’s a bit rich to limit DOC’s ability to trade 22 hectares while LINZ has been freeholding hundreds of thousands of hectares for 25 years. DOC was at least going to get some land in exchange. LINZ has somehow managed to lose over $60 million while selling more land than it got for the NZ taxpayer."

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