Conservation Minister Nick Smith is continuing to deny he
saw a draft report on the proposed Ruataniwha Dam project, as a
leaked email suggests he was concerned about the Department of
Conservation's submission on the proposal.
The 34-page draft report set out the department's concerns
about the way the Hawke's Bay Regional Council planned to
manage water quality issues arising from the dam.
However, senior Department of Conservation (DoC) managers
instead submitted to the board of inquiry considering the
project a much shorter document - just two paragraphs - which
did not deal with those concerns.
Dr Smith on Tuesday said he was not aware of the draft report
until that morning. He stood by that today after a leaked
email revealed he had raised concerns about the proposed
The email from DoC deputy director-general Doris Johnson,
obtained by Radio New Zealand, was dated the day of her
meeting with Dr Smith on July 29.
It said: "The minister wants to see the submission we are
proposing to make on the Ruataniwha before it is lodged ...
He is concerned and is likely to query whether we leave it
all to the [Environmental Protection Agency] to consider."
Dr Smith this morning released correspondence from DoC, dated
July 31, that showed he received only the final submission
following his weekly meeting with officials on July 29.
"I have consistently said I never saw this draft until
Tuesday of this week and I stand by that."
Dr Smith said the first he knew about the issues with DoC's
submission was at the July 29 meeting, when two sentences
were included in a status report among 35 other items.
"I was told there were differences of opinion within the
department over the submission. I said I wanted a full
briefing and wanted to see the final submission.
"This was the only meeting I had on the issue of the
"Two days later I received a full briefing and a copy of
DoC's final submission. It noted the decision DoC had made to
focus its submission on the conservation issues rather than
water quality and why the department had decided to do so.
"I did no more than note the department's decision."
Dr Smith said the issue was a "political beat-up by the
Greens" who were disappointed DoC did not make a submission
opposing the project.
"It is quite clear this decision was made by the department."