Hawke’s Bay Regional Council appears to have hammered the last nail into the coffin of the Ruataniwha Irrigation Dam.
Late yesterday it announced that the only option left on the table to keep the scheme alive will not be pursued.
Councillors confirmed that they will not be using the Public Works Act to grab the land needed to make the dam a reality.
“That was the only avenue remaining for the Government and Regional Council to push through a big irrigation project that so many people didn’t want,” says Greenpeace Agriculture Campaigner, Gen Toop. “The dam is effectively dead in the water.”
The Regional Council have set aside 80 million dollars to fund the scheme
This follows a ruling by the Supreme Court last week that the area of conservation land cannot have its protected status revoked to make way for the dam.
Local Iwi Ngati Kahungunu, Forest and Bird, Greenpeace and hundreds of local community members have all opposed the proposed dam over environmental issues.
“The Ruataniwha Dam was the poster child of the Government’s think-big irrigation agenda, which is now very clearly flailing and needs to be put down.” says Toop.
In the wake of Ruataniwha, Greenpeace is issuing a warning to other think-big irrigation schemes.
“The demise of the Ruataniwha irrigation dam sends one clear message to other proposed irrigation schemes around the country: Their days are numbered.”
The dam would have driven land conversions to intensive dairying and further river pollution. As a result it has faced monumental opposition across the board, both locally and nationally.
Over 90,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the Government stops funding big irrigation schemes.
The dam has faced several local and national protests, including in September last year when Greenpeace returned the proposed dam’s site office from near where the dam was planned back to the Council.
Key investors have also walked away from the dam, it’s faced a lengthy consent process and a court battle which it ultimately lost.
Last October, the people of Hawke’s Bay made their opposition to the dam clear when they voted out the pro-dam majority council and elected in an anti-dam council.
“The Ruataniwha dam would have meant more industrial dairying and more pollution in our rivers so this is a victory for our rivers and for the thousands of people that opposed the dam,” says Toop.
“The huge public opposition which has resulted in the dam’s demise is a stark warning to the other large irrigation schemes planned, like Central Plains Water and Hunter Downs in Canterbury.”
Greenpeace is demanding the Government’s irrigation subsidies be spent on a transition fund to more sustainable forms of farming.
The environmental organisation is releasing a short documentary today, starring NZ farmers, called The Regenerators: A better way to farm.