The Ruataniwha dam could be "put on ice" pending a legal
challenge if strict environmental controls proposed for the
Tukituki catchment are confirmed by a board of inquiry.
The same environmental controls could have a big impact on
major primary sector employers in Hawkes Bay, and cost the
region jobs, the regional council was told yesterday.
A new environmental regime - setting limits on nutrient
levels and river flows in the Tukituki catchment - is part of
a draft decision handed down by the board of inquiry that
considered the consent application for the $275 million
Ruataniwha dam and irrigation scheme for Central Hawkes Bay.
The regime, known as Plan Change 6, has alarmed the council,
which says it will have a significant economic impact on the
region because the environmental restrictions it imposes will
limit farming and growing activities in the catchment.
A report considered by the regional council's regional
planning committee yesterday said Plan Change 6 could result
in a $50 million annual loss in regional gross domestic
product and add millions of dollars to costs for farmers and
The council and other parties involved in the Ruataniwha
hearings process have until tomorrow to lodge submissions on
the board of inquiry's draft proposal.
Andrew Newman, chief executive of Hawke's Bay Regional
Investment Company, the council's investment arm and promoter
of the Ruataniwha project, yesterday raised the prospect of a
legal challenge to the board of inquiry decision if the tough
conditions in its draft determination over Plan Change 6 were
Speaking at a meeting in Ongaonga as part of the council's
public consultation over its proposal to invest up to $80
million into the project, Mr Newman said nitrate limits
proposed by the board of inquiry would have "severe
consequences economically" for the Tukituki catchment.
Asked at the meeting what HBRIC and the council would do if
the board of inquiry confirmed its draft decision without
changes, he said it was likely "we would put the scheme on
ice" as the two organisations worked through an appeals
The board of inquiry has a statutory requirement to issue a
final determination by May 28 but Mr Newman suggested the
complexities of issues it would be asked to consider in
submissions on its draft proposal could lead it to seek an
That can be granted by Conservation Minister Nick Smith and
Environment Minister Amy Adams. The board has already been
granted an extension from the ministers after it ran short of
time during its hearings process.
At yesterday's council meeting, senior land management
adviser Ian Millner said intensive dairy farming and cropping
operations in the catchment would "struggle" under the
proposed Plan Change 6 conditions.
This included the likes of major employer Heinz Wattie's,
whose intensive cropping operations include growing beetroot,
tomatoes and corn in a confined area and are heavily reliant
on artificial fertilisers.
Some councillors challenged the council's report on the
potential impact of the plan change, with Rex Graham calling