The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment company has been asked to place a moratorium on their activites relating to the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.
Councillors agreed this as part of an item on the review of the scheme during their final 2016 council meeting today.
Earlier this year council agreed to commission an independent review of key contractual, legal, financial, economic and environmental elements of the scheme, including the impacts and consequences of implementing Plan Change 6 with and without the Scheme, as well as withdrawal from the scheme.
Today, council received a report on the review’s work programme, and sought decisions on timing, preferred providers, resources and the appointment of a Community Reference Group.
They also agreed to request a moratorium on the Ruataniwha Dam including ceasing further expenditure on it, other than work already committed or contracted, not enter into any new arrangement, and cease taking further steps toward acquiring the required land under the Public Works Act.
This came after consultation between HBRIC’s board of directors on the issues arising from any direction to suspend all expenditure and work related to the scheme.
Following correspondence between regional council chairman Rex Graham and former HBRIC chair Andy Pearce, it had been established the investment company was comfortable with the moratorium.
They did however ask it be specified that the halt on further expenditure would not include that required by HBRIC to comply with its statutory obligations, such as responding to LGOIMA requests, and costs required to value intangible assets to comply with audit requirements
This would also not encompass expenditure needed for directors to comply with their duties to defend and, or maintain the value of the company’s assets, to maintain or enhance the value of the current water sales contracts, and to meet the costs of any Council requests, including HBRIC Ltd’s costs for Council’s review.
The moratorium would not impact court proceedings currently underway for HBRIC, including a recently granted leave of appeal relating to a controversial land swap.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted a leave of appeal requested in September from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company Ltd (HBRIC) and the Minister of Conservation.
This was to appeal a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal earlier that month, when Forest and Bird argued the land swap of 22ha of the Ruahine Forest Park, for 170ha of land HBRIC would potentially buy from Smedley Station, was unlawful.
This would have downgraded the protected conservation status of the Ruahine Forest land to allow it to be flooded as part of the water storage scheme.
Council’s decision to not include the court proceedings in the moratorium has come under fire from Greenpeace.
Greenpeace campaigner Genevieve Toop said “it would be misleading of the Council to tell the public that a moratorium is in place when in truth it is still supporting a ratepayer-funded legal bid to drown protected conservation land to make way for the Ruataniwha dam”.
“If the Council’s investment arm pursues and wins this case, 22ha of protected conservation land would be drowned,” she said.
“More importantly, it sets a precedent whereby all of New Zealand’s specially protected conservation land can have its status downgraded at any time to make way for commercial activities like mining and industrial irrigation.”