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Ruataniwha project is doomed: Greens

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 31/08/2016

The Ruataniwha irrigation project is doomed and it's time Hawke's Bay Regional Council walked away from it, the Greens say.

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday ordered the Director-General of Conservation, Lou Sanson, to reconsider a decision that would have made it possible to build a dam and flood 22ha of the protected Ruahine Forest Park.

Forest and Bird won its appeal, with the court declaring Mr Sanson wasn't entitled to make the "unlawful" decision to revoke protection.

The project across the Makaroro River would store about 900 million cubic metres of water, allowing up to 30,000ha to be irrigated.

"The Ruataniwha Dam has always been a bad idea," said the Greens' water spokeswoman, Catherine Delahunty.

"It would enable intensified agriculture, polluting our rivers and lakes, and protected conservation land was going to be sacrificed for it."

Ms Delahunty says the case for the dam was weak, and the council had barely scraped together enough interest from farmers and growers to make the scheme viable.

"Hawke's Bay Regional Council needs to take the hint - the dam is doomed because there's no longer anywhere to store the water," she said.

"It must walk away from it."

The council had proposed exchanging the land that would be flooded for a 1270ha farming area known as Smedley Block.

Forest and Bird says the Court of Appeal decision is a major victory for New Zealand's natural environment.

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