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DOC seeks ruling on its powers

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/12/2016

The Department of Conservation says it wants to know if it can make decisions on its own about the conservation estate as it challenges a court decision on Hawke's Bay's Ruataniwha water scheme.

The department has been granted a Supreme Court hearing to appeal a decision which quashed a land swap deal which would allow the controversial irrigation scheme to go ahead.

The hearing will be held some time next year.

"This is not about the dam," Director-General Lou Sanson said in a statement on Thursday.

"We need absolute clarity on whether the department can, through considering the purposes of the Conservation Act, enable decisions that have the potential to enhance public conservation land."

Last year Mr Sanson approved revoking the conservation status of 22 hectares of land, which would be flooded, in exchange for 170ha of land.

However, scheme opponents went to the Court of Appeal, which said the focus should have been on the values of the 22ha of land being revoked, rather than the broader benefits to conservation and the Ruahine Forest Park.

Forest & Bird has said if the department's Supreme Court appeal is successful it could open the door to up to 1 million hectares of protected land being lost to reclassification.

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