Ruataniwha wrangling to continue?

Conservation groups are celebrating the Supreme Court ruling that the Conservation Minister’s attempt to swap protected conservation land for farmland to make way for the Ruataniwha dam reservoir was not legally allowed, but the Government is threatening to change the law.  That hasn’t gone down well.

RNZ:  Ruataniwha dam: law-change plan branded arrogant

The government is arrogant if it thinks it can change the law to push through the Ruataniwha dam project, the Labour Party says.

Environment Minister Maggie Barry said the government would now consider legislating to ensure such land swaps could go ahead.

She said the government had long believed that under the conservation act it was allowed to swap a low value piece of conservation land for a piece of land with higher conservation values.

Labour’s Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri said the conservation land being swapped for the irrigation scheme was not low quality.

“It’s a beautiful pristine area, looking down the valley, so giving that up for another piece of land … everybody knows it’s really swapping land so this dam could go ahead.”

Ms Whaitiri said it would be arrogant for the government to legislate to overturn the court’s ruling.

Green Party conservation spokesperson Mojo Mathers said the government wanted to destroy protected conservation land for its private developer mates.

She said it should just respect the court’s decision.

Threatening to legislate away a Supreme Court ruling does seem like arrogance – not a good thing to show in an election campaign.

Flooding conservation land to enable increased farm production is highly questionable with or without enabling legislation given clear signs production has reached unsustainable levels and natural waterways have been badly damaged as a result.