I have read the commissioners interim decision regarding meridians proposed north tunnel power project on the Waitaki river. I don't think they gave enough weight to the submissions made by maori and environmentalists.
The maori submissions against the project were strong and the commissioners even adopted one of the principal submissions from Paul Horgan (on behalf of TRONT). Good on you Paul!
So what did maori say?
All spoke of the past degradation of the mauri of the river since the dam was built and the future increased degradation if the proposed tunnel was built. Concerns were raised about the rock art and their protection.
Our kaiwhakahaere stated that, "... the significance of Aoraki and the Waitaki Catchment for the cultural identity and wellbeing of Ngai Tahu cannot be overstated."
He said, "Waitaki literally means 'The waterway of tears.' It is often referred to as 'the tears of Aoraki' that spill into Lake Pukaki and eventually make their way along the river to the coast."
He also spoke about the degradation of maori values and sites as a result of existing hydro electricity developments and the importance to Ngai Tahu of ensuring not only that this did not continue but that restoration also takes place.
Mark also said, "The diversion of up to two thirds of the water from what remains of the existing river in order to produce additional electricity is culturally insensitive."
So what exactly are they going to do?
Remove 66% of the water from the natural riverbed for 53% of the rivers length!
This river is the 8th longest in this country and the Waitaki Catchment is the second largest and it is also the longest braided river.
Potentially 13 out of 20 wetlands will be affected and two of the wetlands could face major changes.
Okay... so what did the commissioner say about the maori submissions.
(Bold my emphasis)
"On the Maori values in section 6 (f) and these are also recognised in the Plan we have come to the conclusion that the NBTC should not be refused consent because of any effect on these values as they were put to us in evidence by the Runanga representatives. We agree with Ms Dawson that the values spoken of all find their expression in the natural values that we have been considering for other purposes and we must also remember that the Lower Waitaki River is not and has not been a natural river for many decades. While we understand the reasons that lead to statements such “enough is enough” and that because of past degradation the Lower River is even more precious, we respectfully disagree with conclusions. There will still be connectivity from the mountains to the sea and the adverse effects on the wetlands can be remedied and mitigated. Indeed MEL specifically seeks the assistance of the Runanga groups to do this. We expresss the hope they will get involved and be active particpants if consent is granted."
So guess what maori - they don't care what you think about this. They believe that because they have already put a dam on this river, that it is now not natural, and so this gives them the right to do anything they like!
"We said earlier in this decision that we would heed the words of the Privy Council in McGuire v Hastings District Council (supra) and we have done that. While they are strictly speaking obiter dicta, they are of course deserving of the highest respect by us. They exhort us to recognise that section 6 (c), section 7(a) and section 8 of the RMA are strong directives and that we should be particularly sensitive to Maori issues. If a suitable alternative can be found that would not adversely affect Maori values then these provisions should strongly encourage the adoption of that alternative. We have held that in our view the values in section 6 (e) and to the extent they are recognised in the Plan will be affected but those effects are capable of being remedied or mitigated."
Thats right - the degradation of the river including the mauri and spiritual values can be mitigated - what a load of rubbish! You cannot bring back that which has already been lost. Once the river is reduced and strangled you cannot mitigate those effects by building a little wetland somewhere or making sure the fly fishers or jet boaters can get on the river. We are talking about maori values - we will determine if the effects can be mitigated not some pakeha!
"We do not recall any specific reference to Treaty of Waitangi principles in thecourse of the hearing of the Runangas’ case and so we do not need to refer to section 8 ofthe Act any further."
Ok - so here is the way forward. use the treaty.
Do we give up - NO!
Do we bow down - NO!
We fight and continue to fight for the mauri of this river, for our ancestors and our children and for the ability to form our own future away from the paternalistic pakeha.
Don't give up TRONT and don't stop fighting this!