DOC approves land swap for Ruataniwha

The Department of Conservation has approved a land swap which is necessary if the Ruataniwha irrigation scheme is to go ahead:

An application by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company to exchange land required for the Ruataniwha water storage scheme has been approved by DOC Director General Lou Sanson.

Lou Sanson says he has approved the land exchange because it will mean a net gain for conservation.

The decision means that the Department of Conservation will receive approximately 170 hectares of private land containing beech forest and regenerating native bush, in return for 22 hectares of the Ruahine Forest Park.

“The public will gain three times the area of black beech forest under this proposal, plus the new land will extend and complement the adjacent Gwavas Conservation Area,” he says.

The 170 hectare exchange block also includes two additional wetland sites, and is promising habitat for skinks and geckos, he says.

“On the other hand, the 22 hectares to be removed from the Ruahine Forest Park has been heavily logged in the past, is partly infested with weeds such as willow and Darwin’s barberry and contains a former house site,” Lou Sanson says.

Mr Sanson says the decision follows a thorough and open public process and the careful assessment of the ecological values of both sites.

The Director General has decided to revoke the protected status of the 22 hectares of Ruahine Forest Park to enable the exchange to take place.

Under the Conservation Act, proposed land exchanges must result in an overall conservation gain for public conservation land and promote the purposes of the Act.

“I believe this land exchange well and truly meets that test,” he says.

Lou Sanson says the land exchange is conditional on the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company undertaking extra conservation programmes to help eradicate wilding pines from the exchange land and to restore whio/blue duck habitat.

The exchange is also conditional on the Ruataniwha water storage scheme going ahead.

In a separate decision, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company will be required to trap and transfer native fish species present at the dam site.

Full details of the decision are here.

The El Niño forecast predicts drought for much of the east coasts of both the North and South Islands this summer.

North Otago has had less than half its annual rainfall and the drought which struck North Canterbury last year still hasn’t broken.

Hawkes Bay had a deluge a couple of weeks ago but if the forecast is right, it won’t get much more this summer.

Any farmers on dry land who could afford to take up irrigation and haven’t yet, need to think of the next generation.

As my farmer told a meeting on the scheme when we were in Hawkes Bay a couple of years ago – think ahead fifty years. Do you want your grandchildren thanking you, or calling you silly old Bs for passing up the opportunity to drought-proof your farms.

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