A leaked submission prepared by a New Zealand government department raising serious concerns about the risk of water pollution to a Hawke’s Bay river has been suppressed by the government, the New Zealand Labour Party and the Greens Party said.
The Department of Conservation prepared a draft 32-page submission on the proposed Ruataniwha Dam. It said the plan poses threats to water quality, habitats and fish species and that reversing damage caused by the proposal would present real problems.
However, this draft was suppressed with DOC submitting only two paragraphs on the scheme, which did not mention the likely water pollution effects.
Labour’s Environment and Conservation spokesperson Ruth Dyson said: “Instead of improving water quality as the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council says it would, the proposal to control only phosphate levels in the Tukituki River, and allow for a substantial increase in the level of nitrates, could ‘kill’ the river.”
The Tukituki catchment is ranked as nationally significant with 18 native fish species present, eight of which are considered to be at risk and declining.
Conservation spokesperson for the New Zealand Greens Party Eugenie Sage said: “DOC’s advice on the Ruataniwha irrigation scheme has clearly been suppressed.
“The massive expansion of irrigation is one of this National government’s top priorities, so there are major questions to be answered as to why the department did not lodge its original submission.
“The quality of our rivers nationally is at stake with this decision as the Ruataniwha dam is the first of many planned by National. The council’s planning regime for water quality could be copied elsewhere.
“DOC’s draft submission is a strong indictment of the current process and the environmental risks it poses.”