Environmental organisation Forest & Bird has released a video showing some of the public conservation land which will be destroyed if a land swap allowing New Zealand’s largest irrigation dam goes ahead.
Forest & Bird is preparing to appear in the Supreme Court to defend the Court of Appeal’s 2016 decision that the Department of Conservation’s planned land swap enabling the Ruataniwha dam was illegal.
The Supreme Court case this February 27th and 28th is being brought by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry alongside the dam company, Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC).
In the video of the proposed dam site in Ruahine Forest Park, Forest & Bird states "If Minister Maggie Barry succeeds in court, it could create a legal precedent that lets over a million hectares of conservation land in New Zealand be traded away and destroyed by business interests."
Some of the important native species and habitats known to exist within the dam's footprint, including native bats, New Zealand falcon, and rare wetlands, are also detailed in the video.
Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague says "This case is about more than Ruahine Forest Park and what would be New Zealand’s largest irrigation dam. It’s about all of New Zealand’s specially protected conservation areas, and whether they’re safe from commercial interests."
"Does the government have the right to exchange parts of our conservation land, which will then be destroyed? The outcome of this case will determine whether specially protected public land can be obtained and destroyed by private businesses, or whether that land belongs to the people of New Zealand, and to the environment."