Today the Appeals Court upheld the Forest & Bird appeal challenging DoC’s decision to downgrade, and swap to the Regional Council’s holding company (HBRIC), conservation land necessary for the CHB dam .
Without that land, there’s no reservoir for the dam to fill.
This is a huge victory for the environment, with important ramifications beyond Hawke’s Bay, because — without this legal block — DoC otherwise could have used the same shonky process to downgrade and trade conservation land elsewhere in NZ. Forest & Bird deserve great credit for their vigilance and persistance on the issue.
Where does this leave the dam? Certainly ‘on hold’ through the election window.
HBRIC chairman Andy Pearce told the Regional Council meeting today that he and his team were seeking to meet with the chief executive of DoC as soon as possible to review DoC’s plans. You can see the brief discussion on HBRC video when posted Thursday.
One option for DoC is to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Or, DoC could follow the directive of the Appeals Court and re-consider the proposed swap after a proper due course procedure, which would take time to organise and conduct, and the subsequent decision could also be legally challenged. [Of course, another option, less likely, would be for DoC to abandon the matter.]
DoC and HBRIC will have a few weeks to sort out their next steps, if an appeal is to be taken.
HBRIC could pursue another tack … use the Public Works Act to simply seize the land, claiming and overriding public good purpose. However that avenue too would involve an extensive process and potential legal review.
Today I offered an amendment to the HBRIC report which proposed that, before proceeding with further action, HBRIC be required to present for Council approval any plan to appeal or otherwise seek to secure the Ruahina Forest Park land at issue.
My resolution failed 5-4. Councillors Barker, Beaven and Graham supported it; Councillors Wilson, Dick, Hewitt, Scott and Pipe opposed.
My point: if the holding company we own, as the region’s environmental authority, wants to try to outmanoeuvre the legal decision that protected this conservation land, then councillors should have the balls to specifically authorise that action.
Not surprisingly, five councillors voted effectively today to give HBRIC free rein.
So HBRIC is free to pursue any further stratagem to grab the land, without further Council review.
Unless HBRIC succeeds, it’s hard to imagine any institutional investor coughing up $80 million to build a dam without a reservoir!
As for HBRC, it will do with its $80 million whatever five councillors wish to do.
Make sure you know where Regional Council candidates stand on the issue.