In the biggest political ‘no-surprise’ of the year so far, the Minister for the Environment Monday announced that the HB Regional Council’s proposals for building a $600 million dam and managing the Tukituki catchment will be directed to a Board of Inquiry (BoI).
No details were released as to either the make-up of the Minister-appointed Board that will consider the environmental sufficiency of these proposals, or the official timeline for triggering the review process. Under the revised RMA, once the decision is officially notified, the Board of Inquiry will have nine months to make its determination.
The BoI process will review only environmental issues, such as the adverse environmental impacts of farming intensification in the Ruataniwha Plains and the habitat/biodiversity losses surrounding the dam and its reservoir … and whether the environmental protections envisioned by HBRC are adequate to deal with these issues.
The integrity of the review process — controlled by a Government that sees irrigation as the path to the Garden of Eden — will be measured by the caliber and independence of the BoI appointees, the evidence presented by all parties, and the extent to which the BoI will follow relevant Environment Court precedents as it makes its judgments.
The environmental and iwi communities have been preparing for what has been seen as a pre-determined ‘call-in’ by the Minister. HB Fish & Game and Ngati Kahungunu will play a major role in presenting the substantial environmental concerns surrounding the proposed dam during the review process that will be undertaken.
In the meantime, a host of economic and financial questions around the dam will remain unexamined, if HBRC has its way. This despite the reality that many in the community question the economic viability of the scheme and the financial risks associated with it … risks for the farmers being asked to buy into it and for the ratepayers who will ultimately pick up a substantial, and yet undefined, cost … particularly if farmer take-up of the scheme is minimal.
As Pauline Elliott says in Transparent Hawke’s Bay’s media release on the call-in (full release here):
“So far the serious concerns of the Mayors of Hastings and Napier, business leaders, Iwi leaders, environmental groups and submitters have gone unheeded. At no time have the people of Hawke’s Bay had an opportunity to understand exactly what is involved here, or to understand the level of risk for ratepayers.”
“In ignoring calls for less haste and greater transparency, the Regional Council’s decision to push ahead has squandered the last remnants of public confidence. The Council is on notice that future consultation will demand a robustness not yet seen anywhere in the process to date.”
Transparent Hawke’s Bay intends to press ahead with independent research, public education and advocacy, as well as fundraising to support those efforts. We are determined to bring the full picture into focus … so that voters can knowledgeably challenge candidates for the Regional Council in September/October.
If you want THB’s work to continue, we need your help … and that includes donations. THB’s contact and bank information is below.
Transparent Hawke’s Bay is hosting a public meeting on the Board of Inquiry process, what it means, the economics of the scheme, and how you can be involved at the Clive Hall on Tuesday 25 June at 7pm.
We urge you to spread the word and attend … and we appreciate any support you can provide.
Transparent Hawke’s Bay Inc
PO Box 821
ASB account: 12-3144-0245035-00
For more information on THB, contact Pauline Elliott at: