Yesterday the Tukituki Board of Inquiry (BOI) rejected HBRC’s proposed approach to addressing the river’s water quality, and in so doing, dealt a major — perhaps fatal — body blow to HBRIC’s proposed dam.

Not a real surprise, as HBRC and its slow-learning legal and planning advisers were simply trying to end-run a position the BOI was already committed to (and a position affirmed by the High Court).

But there’s a huge irony here, as the BOI was originally selected as the smooth decision-making pathway that HBRIC expected would avoid the pesky Environment Court and its irksome environmental sensibilities.

Throughout the HBRC-touted ‘stakeholder’ process on the dam, chaired by pre-Councillor Hewitt and chaperoned by Councillor Scott, environmentalists were ignored. The Council viewed their mere attendance as ticking the box for consultation. Consequently the revisionist HBRC account of that process omits the fact that all the environmental participants refused to endorse the final report! I was one of those.

Was there a warning sign there?

Nonetheless, the HBRC effectively said “Get stuffed” to the environmentalists. “Fight us at the BOI.”

And now — three times by my count (twice via the BOI and once in the High Court) — the environmentalists have successfully said in return: “No, you get stuffed!”

What environmentalists don’t want stuffed (further) is the Tukituki.

So to protect the river’s ecological health they’ve insisted that farmers be required to meet responsible limits on their nitrogen leaching into the catchment. That’s what the DIN (Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen) limit is all about.

HBRIC now must assess whether such limits will allow for the scale of farming intensification on which the economic case for the dam is predicated. When the BOI proposed the DIN limit in its initial decision, HBRIC was aghast and declared such a restriction would kill the dam. Now that the DIN limit will stand, it will be interesting indeed to see HBRIC’s fresh assessment.

Mind you, the matter is not yet fully closed.

Having stipulated yesterday that there can be no substitute for regulating DIN, the BOI still needs to hear from the parties how that regulation should be implemented. The parties involved in the matter have been given until the end of February to go through a process of tabling their recommendations, responding to each other, conferencing, and reporting back to the BOI.

Only then will the BOI decide on the final scheme.

So now two of the key conditions that the proposed dam must meet to be acceptable to the Regional Council are under severe stress: 1) will the environmental requirements be ‘workable’ as assessed by HBRIC; and b) will farmer sign-up for the proposed dam’s water (already sluggish at best) somehow revive, or will it be further deterred by tougher environmental protections?

And underlying both of those issues: will HBRC fund another three months or more of HBRIC’s paddling upstream, at $250,000+ per month?

Stay tuned!

Tom Belford

P.S. This link will take you to the BOI’s latest directive.

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2 Comments

  1. As a by-stander thoughout this protracted exercise, I’m feeling quite humbled and grateful to the parties who have held strong for so long on setting realistic limits for dissolved nitrogen in the Tukituki river, and to the High Court and BOI for carrying out their responsibilities in a professional manner.

    It may be hopelessly unrealistic, but I’d still like to see the contending parties reach broad agreement on their prefered outcome, during what’s left of February. I’m sure the lawyers could agree, if only their clients would let them.

  2. Tom, not only are you getting a bit ahead of yourself with this pronouncement but you’ve once again shown your bias on the issue.

    You fail to report that the BOI also threw out Fish & Game’s proposal (supported by Forest & Bird) to effectively reduce the 0.8DIN trigger to 0.64 and that the BOI has clearly signalled it its Feb 4 direction that the answer lies in “use of Land Use Capability (LUC) leaching rates and the development of procedural guidelines”, so in effect indicating that HBRC just need to rejig its proposed processes in cases of overallocation.

    In your rush to celebrate your wished-for demise of the dam, you seem to forget that PC6 doesn’t just affect land use intensification around CHB & the dam but introduces a universal compliance (& in areas of N overaallocation, resource consenting) regime which is hugely expensive for both producers and HBRC alike & applies irrespective of land use intensity.

    So the perverse outcome of PC6 will be that say an organic sheep farmer (or grapegrower, to use an example from my sector) will be subject to the same reporting & compliance regime as the highest polluting conventional dairy farmer and both will be subject to the same emission clawbacks if they have the misfortune to be in a reach of the Tuki shown to be over 0.8DIN, because they will both be deemed to be contributing to the exceedance.

    A ridiculous waste of time and resources in pointless compliance for most, with the additional perverse outcome that low emitters will be hit harder by the need to reduce emissions because they are already operating in a low input manner.

    Is this really a successful outcome?

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