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Nick Smith and the Ruataniwha dam

Written By: - Date published: 8:24 am, September 19th, 2013 - 37 comments
Categories: Conservation, Environment, water - Tags:

 

NickSmith forked tongueNick Smith is in trouble.  He has a lot of explaining to do to show how he has not misread misled Parliament.

The background is that the Hawkes Bay Regional Council has a grandiose plan to construct a dam to provide water for irrigation.  There are concerns that the dam could have a major adverse effect on the Tukituki River and its water quality may be devastated by increased nutrient run off.

Water quality is a major responsibility of the Department of Conservation.  Under section 6 of the Conservation Act 1987 one of its functions is “to preserve so far as is practicable all indigenous freshwater fisheries, and protect recreational freshwater fisheries and freshwater fish habitats”.  You would think that the potential devastation of a significant river would fall within this.  There is also DOC land that would be directly affected by construction of the dam.

The original 32 page draft submission said that the proposal is a risky and untested approach to water management which could kill the rivers involved.  It also said the risks of the dam project had not been fully assessed, and there was an inadequate management plan for potentially high impact effects on rivers.  It was replaced with a 2 paragraph submission that did not refer to these concerns and was neutral on the proposal.

The intensification of agriculture which will occur as a result of the dam means that much greater stock numbers will be possible.  This will mean much more effluent, and a significant rise in the amount of nitrates leeching into aquifers and streams through their urine and fertiliser use.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is suggesting that phosphates only and not nitrates have to be controlled.  It has proposed in Plan Change 6 an increase in nitrates, get this, of up to 500% on current levels in the Tukituki and Waipawa rivers and tributaries to what are described as toxic levels.

The problem with DOC’s position is that it is abdicating its responsibility to protect the environment and there are a distinct lack of Public Authorities advocating for protection.  The Hawkes Bay Regional Council has stated optimistically that the proposed dam “would take pressure off the Tukituki River in the summer months and potentially return it to naturalised flows. This would improve the water quantity and quality of the Tukituki River, which would be great news for the environment and recreational users.”  But there is no mention on the damage caused by increased nitrate levels.

The timing of the change to DOC’s submission and Nick Smith’s role in this will no doubt be investigated as will his recent statement to Parliament.  On September 17, 2013 in a point of order he said “[t]he member has claimed in the question that I had access to a report that I did not do so until I heard it on Radio New Zealand National this morning.”  He then said outside ParliamentI did not know that this draft document even existed until this morning. And to have accusations that somehow I have covered up its existence – it is somewhat difficult to cover something up when you didn’t even know it existed.”

This morning on Morning Report details of an email amongst senior managers leaked to Peter Fowler were disclosed.  The email, sent on July 29, 2013, said that Smith wanted to see DoC’s submission before it was lodged with the Board of Inquiry.

Smith fronted on Morning Report and in typical style answered questions with extreme confidence but there is a distinct smell about this.

He confirmed that on July 29 he was told that DOC had to finalise its submission on the Dam and that he asked to see the submission before it went in.  He then received a full briefing (20 pages) with details on why the Department had decided not to submit on the nutrient issue.

An environmentally hazardous proposal supported by the farming lobby is initially opposed by DOC, Smith asks to see the submission, it is then changed dramatically and he denies any knowledge of it.  This smells.

No doubt more questions will be asked.  But how a Minister could ask to see a report, receive a 20 page briefing on it, deny all knowledge about its existence and then claim he has not misled is beyond me.

UPDATE:  Question time this afternoon should be interesting.  Questions include:

Hon RUTH DYSON to the Minister of Conservation: Has he ever seen or received a submission or draft submission from the Department of Conservation regarding the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Plan Change 6, which paves the way for the Ruataniwha Dam proposal, which is critical of it?

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN to the Minister of Conservation: Does he stand by his statement “No, I did not” when asked in this House whether he gave any indication to the Department of Conservation on the direction or content of its submission on the Tukituki Catchment Proposal?

37 comments on “Nick Smith and the Ruataniwha dam”

  1. alwyn 1

    Good try Micky but this is, I fear another b.s. beat-up by Radio Pravda.
    All you can say is that the Minister was told on the Monday that the Department was to put in a submission on the Friday of the week concerned and that there was some debate in the Department about what the submission should consider.
    He asked that he recieve a full briefing before the submission was made. The Department would then appear to have briefed him and shown him the two paragraph submission that they were going to submit. That is all he saw and he was never shown the draft that had been floating around the lower reachs of DOC. Ministers do not, after all, see every bit of paper produced by a department of about 1800 people.
    Incidentally you may be guilty of the thing you are blaming Nick Smith for.
    In the first paragraph you say “he must show how he has not MISREAD Parliament” .
    I think you have been misreading the evidence and that Nick has not MISLEAD Parliament.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Thanks Alwyn. Have corrected. Obviously the coffee had not kicked in properly.

      But please reconcile this for me.

      You said

      That is all he saw and he was never shown the draft that had been floating around the lower reachs of DOC

      But he did not deny ever reading the draft. He denied even knowing that the document existed.

      Don’t you agree that the two statements are not reconcilable?

      • alwyn 1.1.1

        I don’t see why they should be irreconcilable. If you ask for a briefing by the department, and say you want to see the department’s submission then that is what you are going to be shown. It’s entirely reasonable for you to ask for it of course under the “no surprises” doctrine.
        If Smith was given a briefing on the project, and shown the final version of the submission, why should he even suspect that there was an abandoned draft that had been prepared. I can easily believe that he didn’t know that some other opinion had been floating around.
        Have you ever, in your work, been asked to prepare an opinion, done a draft, modified it and come to a quite different view to the one in the first draft. Would you have shown all the versions, or only the final one, to the ultimate recipient?
        As far as the word goes I thought it was funny. I do it all the time, even when I have had enough cups of coffee to almost give me the shakes.

        • mickysavage 1.1.1.1

          He was given a 20 page report on the matter which included the 2 paragraph final submission and must have included some background into the earlier submission about water quality. He then denied any knowledge of the earlier submission.

          Seems pretty clear to me.

        • framu 1.1.1.2

          “But he did not deny ever reading the draft. He denied even knowing that the document existed.”

          smiths own words and actions condem him here, and all we can go own is his words and actions – no one but smith can read his mind

          if he had said “i asked for, and saw the draft but the extra detail is new to me” then hes got an argument – but hes not saying anything like that is he, and the emails dont even support that rather generous re-framing of his own words

          now, he might have slipped up in his initial statement – but he still standing by it – so he is telling porkies, or cant figure out why his first statement isnt very accurate.

          neither of which is really acceptable from someone in his position

          Considering the guy has a record of telling outright lies, deliberate mis-information, manufacturing false crises and didnt see any problem with using his official standing to influence ACC – im picking hes telling porkies

    • bad12 1.2

      So when DOC’s Dorris Johnson sent out the email to various senior managers requesting that a copy of the draft submission be sent to Nick Smith you are suggesting that that draft was either not sent or not received,

      Wonder what Dorris is going to say when asked who asked for or why She wanted the draft of the submission sent to Smith..

      • bad12 1.2.1

        My apologies to Doris for the mis-spell, Doris Johnston is DOC’s Deputy Director- General, not quite ‘the lower reaches of DOC’ as suggested above…

      • Pascal's bookie 1.2.2

        Exactly, here’s what the email said:

        Hello,

        The minister wants to see the submission we are proposing to make on the Ruataniwha before it is lodged.

        I suggest you send it over tomorrow for him to consider the draft and also attach the briefing note you provided me.

        I am in Hamilton tomorrow but back on Wednesday. He is concerned and is likely to query whether we leave it all to the EPA to consider.

        The Minister isn’t wanting a briefing on the subnission, he wants to see the submission.

        • Ad 1.2.2.1

          …and there it is. That’s the next best thing to the Minister’s signature.

          It’s well overdue time for Smith to go.

          Let’s see if the new labour lineup can attack and win.

          Time to merge DoC with Ministry for the Environment and get some policy teeth back into conserving New Zealand.

  2. Chrissy 2

    Nick Smith is the most useless Minister of Conservation, ever.

    • Janice 2.1

      Nick Smith has been the most useless member of parliament since he entered as a young boy. He now appears to have spent those many useless years in Bellamy’s.

      • bad12 2.1.1

        i was particularly impressed with the ‘performance’ Nick gave after being made Deputy to the then Leader Doctor Dullard Don Brash,

        Unconfirmed and possibly malicious gossip at the time said that Nick got such a rush of power to His head that He immediately went into hyper-drive barking orders at all and sundry in the halls of the Parliament including Labour MP’s,

        Far from suggesting that Nick should be removed by the Doctors in charge, He does have ‘humor value’ after-all, i would tho think for community safety reasons Nick should possibly be shadowed where-ever He may roam by the men in white coats…

      • Greywarbler 2.1.2

        He has the red faced bloated look that I associate with people who have had a too extended and continual alcohol intake.

  3. Greywarbler 4

    Nick Smith seemed to be doing something right a while ago, though now I can’t remember what it was. Because I’m numb from the implications of this business over the dam. And that’s added to the extension of mining and drilling options and the chortling about income and prosperity.

    I think that the names of the people most involved in this decision should be noted for future consideration if anything happens that destroys even parts of our natural resources. The grinning assassins of the government need their bare bottoms tanned and their foreheads tattooed for thinking about this, and when something goes wrong reparation from them personally should be demanded.

  4. Kevin Welsh 5

    I live in Hawkes Bay and I object to this for two simple reasons, although there are many more, more valid ones.

    1. Public money being spent to add value to only a handful of privately owned businesses; and

    2. “There is a reason they don’t have dairy farms in the south of Italy”. And so it goes with the area this dam is supposed to irrigate. All it will do is continue to encourage farmers to grow crops (that would otherwise be unsustainable if there was no dam) or convert to dairy, in an area that gets burnt to a crisp almost every summer. I see this as I travel regularly to Palmerston North and SH50 is the road I travel on.

  5. grumpy 6

    …and…as if to prove the agreement between CV and myself yesterday that “cronyism” is a disease not confined to political spectra, here the mighty Whale rips Nick a new one, far more brutally than the left thus far.

    http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/09/docs-submission-dodgy-socialist-dam/

  6. Sable 7

    Oh dear, trouble in paradise with Whale blubber renouncing its Tory Gods.

    Love the comment about a “Socialist Dam”, whatever that actually means? Do we all sites around the dam singing the Internationale whilst waving red flags. Pure nonsense.

    • grumpy 7.1

      I think you will find it fits in with his crusade against “socialism for farmers”…..

      • Pascal's bookie 7.1.1

        Also, Smith doesn’t exactly square with the Lusk vision for the National Party. Hawke’s Bay sources indeed.

  7. Rogue Trooper 8

    Stab the puff-adder. Even an unrepentant reptile like Nick Smith must be aware of the importance of the Heretaunga aqifers and rivers to the broader Horticultural economy and, more importantly, the people who choose to live in the beautiful Hawkes Bay. The superphosphate that the sheep and cow cockies have been dumping on for 100 years has accumulated to be released continuously for the next 100 already. Talked with friend of Lou Crasborn this morning; Horticulturalists are ropable.

  8. Murray Olsen 9

    Great work by the Greens to uncover this. I can’t imagine the number of government scandals that will come to light once we have a fully functioning opposition.

    As for WhaleSpew and his aversion to a socialist dam – isn’t that where he shoots defenceless creatures with his Machiavellian mate Lusk? Maybe some farmer wouldn’t let him on his land after he left gates open or some other townie rubbish. Who knows?

  9. tc 10

    Yup it’s all about keeping the backers happy and smith is an accomplished performer (ACC beatup etc) that’s why Shonky had to get him back as Aya Tolley, Wilko just not in the same league with much needing to be done.

    Never mind the world class wines and other fine produce the HB provides you may be putting at risk as long as a few fed farmers members are happy.

  10. outofbed 11

    I know Mr Smith quite well

    Never ever believe anything he says

  11. Athena 12

    I reckon the problem is at the senior management level of DOC. National have stacked DOC with pro development types, like Al Morrison and they are the people who let the general DOC staff do the work on submissions, but then stop those submissions ever getting out (unless leaked). It is senior management against the rest of the staff, so Nick Smith can keep his hands clean. I would like to know if any of the senior management have relevant scientific qualifications. Good work by Mary Wilson on Checkpoint interviewing Doris Johnston.

    • Rogue Trooper 12.1

      yes, according to Doris , (to paraphrase her evasiveness) ” DOC are prepared to accept the existing risk assessment probability that the TukiTuki will become toxic as they continue to trial the single nutrient model around other catchments in the country as it’s catchment is deemed of only ‘medium value’ while they do have sufficient resources to carry out a full assessment at an estimated cost of “a couple of hundred thousand”.
      We, and our children Thank You Very Much, Doris .

  12. tricledrown 13

    Lizard eyes smiths tuesday ‘s answers to questions on morning report are at odds with this mornings answers.
    On Tuesday smith claimed to objection to the dam being built because of nitrgen run off.
    Was the work of one man with an agenda and no expertise in this area.
    Now it is a team of 3 highly qualified enviromental scientists.
    Lizard eyes wasn’t expecting a leak.Obviously!

  13. RedBaronCV 14

    Wasn’t there something in one of the papers the other day about the pro dam farmers financing a slate of candidates for the HBRC. Suppose if that doesn’t work we’ll get another Ecan.

  14. Tracey 15

    i heard doris on checkpoint last night. i am not sure she really addressed the tomorrow part of her email. however i got out of the car, did she blame an employee for not following her instruction?

  15. Pascal's bookie 16

    Oh dear, all yesterday’s spin just went ‘poof’ and disappeared in a cloud of bureaucratic reporting fastiduousness :


    But a report from the meeting released to 3 News shows Mr Smith was given a short briefing about the direction of the submission including the, “potential effect of the proposed nutrient limits and targets on the freshwater values in the Tukituki catchment”.

    After the briefing, Mr Smith raised concerns and requested more information, which according to an email trail, appears to have prompted senior managers to express concern also.

    The next day the 32-page submission was scrapped and replaced by a two paragraph submission approved by the Minister.

    Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Smith-knew-about-draft-dam-submission/tabid/1607/articleID/314011/Default.aspx#ixzz2fNHzCpgL

  16. Tracey 17

    … but the queen is keys new best friend, she wldnt holiday with a liar?

  17. Rosie 18

    Maybe Smith, in true Nat ministerial style, is making a habit of sweeping the advice of concerned relevant departments under the carpet.

    I’m currently borrowing a copy of Forest and Bird, Issue 349, Aug ’13. There is article after article describing the many ways in which the Nat govt is fucking up the environment. (my terminology, not theirs)

    “Conflict of values” is one article in particular relating to Smith’s anti environment behaviour. The discussion is about the decision to grant “mining company Bathurst Resources access arrangements necessary for it’s bid to develop a mine on Denniston Plateau……….”

    “furthermore, Dr Smith’ decision lies in contrast to the ecological advice of his own department. DOC’s 246 page report on Bathurst’s application for access arrangements (dated May 6, 2013) does not make explicit recommendation to decline or accept Bathurst’s application. But it states the application is inconsistent with objectives of the Conservation Act. It goes on to note is is “particularly concerned” about losses to the plateau’s natural and historic resources” (p.41)

    “inconsistent with objectives of the Conservation Act”

    Smith really needs to be called Minister for Polluting Businesses. His commitment to protecting our environment he has proven is at the best, weak.Great to see calls for his resignation. Wouldn’t it be great if he did go, but then what other member of the mine it, drill it sell it team would take over and carry on with the business of allowing vested interests with powerful lobby groups to continue to ruin our environment?

  18. Tracey 19

    rosie, i think thats exactly what norman called him, minister of dirty water

    • Rosie 19.1

      Oh lol. Did he? I missed that. Good on Norman. Now that we have an effective opposition leader, and combined with the Greens good efforts we might see a bit more fight in the house. It’s a great thing, at last.

    • RedBaronCV 19.2

      Well that has to be a superb double – entendre ( or something) that no doubt passed Nick Smith right by.

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