The Board of Inquiry into the $230 million Ruataniwha Dam project in Hawke's Bay has granted resource consents subject to strict conditions.
The board made its final decision after hearing from 131 witnesses and considering 28,000 pages of conflicting and highly technical material relating to the controversial plan. The plan is for the largest irrigation dam in New Zealand.
"A major issue concerned the balancing of intensification of land use with the protection of the environment, in particular the river system within the Tukituki catchment," the board said. "Cultural issues, especially the relationship between Maori and the waters in the catchment, were also prominent."
The Hawke's Bay Regional Council and its investment company are studying the final decision and will take several days to respond. The council voted yesterday to invest up to $80 million in the project.
The board adopted a dual nutrient approach in a plan change required for the project to manage both phosphorous and nitrogen in the Tukituki catchment, ditching the contentious 'single nutrient' approach proposed in the draft plan.
It has set an in-stream dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) limit and target, as well as on-land leaching rates for nitrogen.
All farms within the Tukituki catchment that exceed 4 hectares for intensive farming and 10ha for non-intensive farming have to prepare a farm management plan and face stock management requirements in respect of waterways.
Proposed minimum flows for rivers have been endorsed by the board but the board has increased the volume of groundwater that may be consented for irrigation from an aquifer.
The board was appointed by the Minister for the Environment and Minister of Conservation on June 5.