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Forest & Bird says ECan move a fast-track for dams

Forest & Bird says ECan move a fast-track for dams

Forest & Bird believes the Government’s move to replace Environment Canterbury with its own appointees is a covert move to fast-track dams without public consultation.

“Decisions about our rivers are normally made by democratically elected councilors and the Environment Court,” Forest & Bird South Island Conservation Manager Chris Todd says. “The democratic and legal defences of Canterbury’s wild rivers are being swept aside and replaced with a kangaroo court.”

The changes will have serious implications for a Water Conservation Order over the Hurunui River, due to be heard by the Environment Court in May. The case will no longer be heard by the court and the Government-appointed commissioners will decide on it instead.

“Forest & Bird is astonished that the Government is usurping the power of the Environment Court when this case is already under way. This is unprecedented,” Chris Todd says.

The same commissioners will also have to set up water storage infrastructure in Canterbury, which is in direct conflict with considerations to protect the Hurunui.

“How can they possibly make an independent decision about a Water Conservation Order? The Hurunui is the last major river and lake system on the South Island east coast that flows from mountains to sea without dams or other control structures,” Chris Todd says. “It supports critically endangered birds. It’s one of the most popular white-water kayaking and fishing rivers in New Zealand. Dams would threaten all those things.

“The Government plans at the same time to water down the Water Conservation Order legislation under urgency without any public consultation.”

Forest & Bird is pleased that the commissioners will have power to put a moratorium on new consents in areas where water is close to or over allocated, but considers these same powers should have been given to Environment Canterbury councilors.


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