15 Dec 2014

Court ruling setback for dam supporters

5:52 am on 15 December 2014

A farmer supporter of Hawke's Bay's Ruataniwha dam and irrigation project is hoping a review ordered by the High Court won't make too many changes to the conditions set by the Board of Inquiry that approved the scheme.

The site of the proposed Ruataniwha Dam.

The site of the proposed Ruataniwha Dam. Photo: RNZ

Fish and Game, Forest and Bird and the Environmental Defence Society appealed against the board's final decision, which gave consents for the storage dam and district plan changes associated with the Tukituki Valley irrigation scheme.

The High Court has ordered the board to reconsider a rule covering the level of nitrogen that is allowed to be leached from farms in the catchment.

In its final decision, the board had modified the conditions it had set for nitrogen levels after hearing further submissions from promoters of the scheme.

The environmental groups which appealed regard the court ruling as a win for them.

Federated Farmers' Hawke's Bay president Will Foley said it was a setback for supporters of the scheme, because while the board's final decision still imposed nitrogen limits, farmers could at least live with them.

"Under the draft decision it was highly unworkable. We certainly weren't going to get a dam built, and we were happy with the final decision. It was workable and farmers could have taken up the water and farmed, how it was, even though there were restrictions and limitations on what they could do.

"So, ideally we'd want to see a final decision not too dissimilar to what came out in the first place," he said.

Will Foley said the High Court ruling would mean further uncertainty for farmers who had already committed themselves, or were in the process of signing up to take water from the irrigation scheme.

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