High Court Rules ECan Acted Illegally Giving Green Light for Irrigation

The High Court has told Environment Canterbury (ECan) to reconsider its decision that allows nitrates and to other pollutants from irrigated dairy farms into the aquifer and rivers and streams.
The court ruled that ECan had unlawfully given a resource consent to Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation Ltd over approximately 180,000 hectares. Essentially the consent allows the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser in an area between the Hakatere/Ashburton and Rakaia Rivers from the foothills of the Southern Alps to the coast of Canterbury.
The ruling will have major implications for any irrigation proposals, ECan’s responsibilities and how the Resource Managemebnt Act is applied.
An advocacy group Environment Law Initiative (ELI) had asked for a judicial review of the 2021 decision by ECan.  
ELI’s Director of Research and Legal, Matt Hall described the High Court ruling as “hugely significant” for freshwater management and that it raised questions about ECan’s process of making consent decisions.
The New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers commented that the High Court ruling was a reflection of ELI’s commendable initiative and courage. A spokesman for the Federation said the ECan’s consent to Ashburton Lyndhurst was to allow continuing environmental and ecological degradation via the continuing teaching of nitrates into groundwater. The Federation has by way of research work of immediate past president Dr Peter Trolove, been sampling nitrate levels. High nitrate levels are toxic to aquatic life, both trout and salmon and native fish. In addition high nitrate levels in drinking water has been linked by overseas studies to bowel cancer, other cancers and human birth and baby failings.

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7 Responses to High Court Rules ECan Acted Illegally Giving Green Light for Irrigation

  1. H. Francis says:

    ECAN has the word “environment” in its title surely a misnomer in view of its neglect of environmental values?
    Thank goodness, there are groups like Environment Law Initiative (ELI) and the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers and top marks to the High Court.

  2. James Eastlake says:

    Good comment H. Francis, but there’s the question where is Fish and Game, the Department of Conservation (native fish and trout and salmon), Ministry of Health (human health endangered by nitrates in drinking water)?
    All lethargic or AWOL.

  3. Peter Trolove says:

    The High Court judicial review ruled that S 107 of the RMA takes precedence over Ecan’s Regional Plan, (Plan Change 5.).
    This is significant and will limit Ecan’s options of deferring, delaying, or avoiding its accountabilities to the Environment. (The “nitrate legacy issue” card is past its use by date).
    Ecan has showed it is not an independent regulator through supporting the Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation scheme in the High Court.
    There will be no environmental restoration for as long as Ecan is able to operate outside the law.

  4. Drake says:

    New Zealanders feel disconnected when central or regional governments act outside the law.

  5. Tim Neville says:

    Only a full cleanout of the top ranked staff at ECan will change their current arrogance.

  6. Frank Schumaker says:

    We don’t want another takeover by central government as National did, ‘master -minded’ by John Key and Nick Smith with stooge state commissioners replacing elected ones. Democracy must remain so it’s up to the people, next ECan elections, to put up candidates in every ward and to vote. In that way a ‘clean-out’ would be effective.
    National’s state takeover was disgraceful, akin to a communist grab of power. Unfortunately National’s current minister Chris Bishop and NZ First’s Shane Jones, are threatening the public’s environment with their ‘fast track’ plans.
    Do Key, Smith, Bishop and Jones realise they were/are public servants?

  7. Peter Bragg says:

    Exactly, Fish & Game skipping to a Government tune, nothing new here.

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