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Forest and Bird takes it the Government in the Supreme Court

Written By: - Date published: 8:10 am, February 24th, 2017 - 25 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, climate change, Conservation, Environment, national, Politics, same old national - Tags: , ,

This coming Monday 26th and February 27th, the Crown seeks to overturn what Forest and Bird had defeated in the Appeal Court: the right to swap Department of Conservation land into the Ruataniwha Dam.

In Minister of Conservation Maggie Barrie’s words, the Appeal Court decision hinders their ability to “consider the broader conservation picture in decisions about the management of conservation land, or not.” I have yet to see the Minister spell out what those broader conservation picture elements are under her governing acts, so perhaps DoC’s submissions will enlighten us.

In people versus state-and-business, it hasn’t got as big as this since Fletchers, Alusuisse and the Muldoon government tried to put an aluminum smelter at the entrance to Dunedin’s harbour. This is really that big.

If the Crown loses again, we will likely see Minister Smith propose further tweaks to the Resource Management Act’s ministerial call-in powers. These powers are being heavily contested by the Maori Party inside parliament right now, before the bill can come back for its next reading. This Ruataniwha case is stirring parliament’s MMP fermentation barrel at the perfect time.

Prior to the 2016 local elections, Hawkes Bay Regional Investments Company (HBRIC) had proposed, if the Crown lost the Supreme Court contest, simply stepping in and acquiring all the land it needed under the Public Works Act for water purposes. The Crown would probably have to answer a similar problem eventually; whether conservation purposes were a national “work” that was superior to a local water “work”.

So one could also foresee further resulting tweaks to the Public Works Act that the government changed only last year, if that happened. (With those new amendments, when the government takes your land under the PWA, but doesn’t use it for that purpose, it no longer has to offer it back to you: it gets to call around all its other Departments to see if they have another use for it. A shift of property rights that could be applied at a scale dwarfing one state house eviction).

Once the decision is handed down, some of the result will come down to election year politics:

– Does this government have the coalition strength to indirectly intervene in Ruataniwha, by passing its RMA reforms into law?

– Will HBRIC survive the HBRC review currently underway?

–  Following the Havelock North water debacle review, will public health issues like security of public supply and water quality force the broadening of the Ruataniwha initiative out to a Cabinet decision rather than DoC alone?

– Will climate change and drought in Hawkes Bay become a real political factor towards a dam beyond September 2017?

– Could they simply redesign the dam to no longer require the 22ha of Ruahine forest and obviate all these challenges, and simply crack into it after a bit of redesign?

So there’s more to come no matter what the Supreme Court decision.

With such razor-thin parliaments as we have now – and will likely have after 2017 – we are exceedingly lucky to have a fearless NGO in Forest and Bird to force these issues to the highest level of New Zealand’s judicial accountability.

If this decision gets handed down before the election, it’s all on.

25 comments on “Forest and Bird takes it the Government in the Supreme Court ”

  1. saveNZ 1

    What this government is doing to the environment is shocking! And in many cases irreversible. Good luck Forest and Bird.

  2. Jenny Kirk 2

    I wonder when the people with the landlines will wake up to what this Govt is really doing to our beautiful land (and waters) and decide enough is enough, and that No, they don’t like it and say so in the polls.

    • BM 2.1

      Is Labour going to stop Ruataniwha dam?

      • Ad 2.1.1

        Labour would follow the law to start with.

        The last time a Labour Minister got rolled this hard in court over an environment matter was nearly 16 years ago with Minister Chris Carter about the Whangamata marina, which since it was just a good old High Court judicial review rather than an Appeal Court followed by Supreme Court, pretty much pales in comparison to this one.

      • marty mars 2.1.2

        maybe ManaMāori will if labour don’t – opps – they might be too busy spitting on the people though eh jenny

    • Leftie 2.2

      I’m wondering that too Jenny.

  3. Forest and Bird are fantastic – big ups to them

  4. Ian 4

    I sincerely hope that the government is successful in its appeal
    It will be a victory for common sense.

    • lprent 4.1

      It would be a victory for land grabbers. The problem is that once you start grabbing conservation land and ‘replacing’ it, How long will it before it gets to ‘I will grab this beach front reserve land and replace it with this great conservation land with a decayed erosion prone old sheep farm.’.

      I have no idea what the land is in this case, however that is the principle that is being fought against.

      Now I am sure you are going to say that ‘common sense’ would prevent that? But why would it? Common sense has no legal standing.

      • Ian 4.1.1

        Land swaps happen all the time. I signed one off with a government agency a month ago to improve the flow of state Highway one.
        This is political Mischeif making by a radical group of extreme left.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Forest and Bird may seem like radicals to a man who gets duped by lies about guano and water quality.

          How many land swaps have occurred involving the conservation estate? Not everyone is as gullible as you. Diddums.

        • lprent

          On conservation land? Or on land owned by the public?

          Nope what you signed was an agreement between a private owner and a state organisation. Two parties who are able to defend themselves.

          In this case we have some people who have temporary control of assets owned by the public in trust for future generations trying to grab it for the benefit of a small group of private owners (including the council actors). What hasn’t been noticeable is that these temporary trustees protecting the interests of the those they are holding it in trust for. So Forest and Bird is doing their work for them.

          BTW: Your argument is legally illiterate, irrelevant to the facts, and full of complete bullshit. Evidently made by a radical idiot trying to look like a fool. Just my opinion – you understand… 😈

        • Ad

          They do happen all the time at NZTA. No-one had to defend the interests of motorways, because they have a multi-billion dollar defence team.

          Behind them of course is the whole of Crown Law, alk the QC’s they could want, and Cabinet itself.

          The trees just get the NGO.

          But then, your on the side of the motorway, always, because clearly that’s your job.

          The law exists to level this imbalance of power, namely, to hold people like you to account.

  5. Ian 5

    Whatever.I suppose I can not understand why the left is so anti water storage and irrigation.
    But that’s OK because you’re never going to get anywhere near forming a government.

    • Ad 5.1

      You’re never going to understand the purpose of law in civil society.

    • joe90 5.2

      anti water storage and irrigation.

      Because bludgers expect other people to pay for it.

      And shit. People don’t like shit.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.3

      Is lying about motive the best you can do? It is, eh. You actually don’t understand the argument against degrading the conservation estate.

      Right now, the opposition parties are polling higher than National. Sleep well, dear.

    • lprent 5.4

      Don’t know about “the left” when it comes to water. But I tend to look at it as some one who spent a number of years working on farms and then did an earth sciences degree – water being a large part of the curriculum for both.

      Fresh water is a gift of the environment. Despite what it seems when it is pouring down, it is in short supply, a relatively easy resource to abuse, and is absolutely crucial for sustaining the ecosystems that our economy and culture is founded on. It is held in common, and not owned.

      Taking care of it and its watersheds should be primary in the minds of those industries that thrive on it. Yet clearly it isn’t. Just look at the dairy industry.

      So far with the Ruataniwha Dam, I can’t see the overarching economic need for it that requires it to grab watershed conservation land. Instead I can see it benefiting just a small number of farmers in a area where the waterways and ground water have already suffered major degradation.

      So far I haven’t seen any attempts to give that evidence to the public who hold it in common. Instead the political fools promoting it have relied on the kind of mindless denigration that you just did. Needless to say that doesn’t inspire confidence that morons of that kind understand the issues if they can’t even be bothered to deal with them.

  6. Drowsy M. Kram 6

    In the time remaining our Government is intent on ramping up its programme of environmental degradation. Good luck Forest and Bird.

    Damn the Dam

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