Thursday, October 17, 2013

Heart Break

Upper Makaroro hut : near the headwaters of the Makaroro river. The focal point of the Ruataniwha dam. Steep rugged terrain. Not difficult to see far below this point on the river why technocrat money changers want to alter these places forever...

The bile rises in my throat. My heart hurts. To read our Department of Conservation, the managers and overseers of all our conservation land and survival of our native and freshwater species are using semantics, a loophole, the vagaries of legal speak to allow the Ruahine to not only be compromised, but altered forever. Wilderness drowned in her own blood, the very water that sustains it, so that people out here can make more money and pollute more rivers. The rotten stench and slime coated feel of the entire Ruataniwha dam scheme has in the entire course of it's unfolding and subterfuge filled and suspect resource consent process boarders on criminal. Much like the rivers that will lie below this dam, all emerging from the Ruahine.  And to the Ruahine range upon which it's prostrate living corpse will rest, it is a crime. It makes me sick

Through the years I have met and interacted with many DOC workers. Coalface peeps who are certainly not there for the monetary riches on offer, but rather a love of the whenua, the mountains and rivers and the native fauna and creatures that dwell within such places. This government has slowly reduced their numbers, turning the rest into paper shuffling bureaucrats beholden to smiling assassins of our wilderness. One DOC employee had the guts to leak documentation that the original DOC submission in regards to the dam was 36 pages long, reduced upon direction from the top to reduce it to a few meagre mumbling paragraphs of neither support nor opposition. He, or she, is now being hunted like a criminal, the upper echelons of the department and government demanding a scalp for such insurrection in revealing the truth. That person is a hero!
"Truth is always the enemy of power. And power the enemy of Truth" - Edward Abbey

 Parks Peak hut under an emerging full moon...the entire access to this place via the southern ridge will be gone, much of the start of it underwater. And it is a long somewhat grueling ridge at that, up and down the undulating forest and occasional open top stretches. The stunted tawhairauriki, fighting their own battles in the thin soiled narrow ridge seem to smile knowingly as I pass by. There is no water to be had, there is no relief to the slight but relentless climb to here. It is a ridge I have climbed now many times, each one staggering into this little lovely mountain meadow under my load thirsty and tired and vowing never again. Yet I return again and again...till perhaps now.

The dead trees in the Ruahine speak the loudest. Their very essence being absorbed back into the meagre earth they themselves struggled upon their entire lives. The death poses grip me deeply. Most often like this one, all of our tipuna, ancestors. "Leave us be! Listen! You need us more than we need you. We love you, why cannot you love us in turn."

Earlier this year I was at Parks Peak on my own. The final evening it was clear but windy and gale like winds buffeted over the ridge. I went and stood in the forest amongst the living and dead trees and felt the very bones of the Ruahine herself swaying and rocking in the wind. Then I noticed the tears running down my cheeks, an overwhelming sense of love and grief that rolled through me like the winds through my very soul.. I thought it was about me, and it was. I know now it was also grief for the very whenua, the land, that I stood shakily upon. My heart aches.


Jeffrey Willius said...

Robb -- My heart aches along with yours for the threatened loss of your Eden! Thanks for sharing your feelings.

MikeM said...

Hi Robb.

I'll leave it to you and others to comment on the merits of the scheme (for now), but I also noticed this report. What was stated in the report seemed to conflict with what's actually written in law, and I investigated it further.

This doesn't make everything better, but in short the reporting is lazy, and therefore mis-leading as to what was actually recommended.

Firstly, section 61(2) of the Conservation Act states very clearly that everything which was considered a Forest Park pre-1987 would automatically be considered a Conservation Park when the Conservation Act and DOC came into existence. Ruahine Forest Park therefore does not need to be gazetted. Every part of Ruahine Forest Park, which was legally a Forest Park during Forestry Service days before the Conservation Act came in, is protected.

Land can only be swapped if it's Stewardship Land (basically DOC-managed land that's not specifically declared as anything else), and a full-on public consultation process would be required to demote part of a Conservation Park back down to Stewardship Land, in order for it to be swapped. It's also necessary during swaps for DOC to justify that it's getting a "net conservation gain", even though that's a politicised term.

Secondly, the land in question is a small, isolated slice of land that's on the edge of the Makaroro but outside the boundaries of Ruahine Forest Park. It's about 1km long and a few hundred metres wide, left over from the old Yeoman's Mill site (so I'm told?) and largely full of weeds and gorse. This might or mightn't be exactly correct, however.

DOC's internal report, and the quoted spokesperson, were stating that this parcel of land outside the park wasn't part of the actual park, so wouldn't require the public consultation that would otherwise be needed to reduce it to stewardship land prior to a potential swap, in the same way that would be required if it were inside park boundaries.

Clearly the plan is still to flood that part of the Makaroro outside the park, which means it's not automatically okay for any number of reasons other than it being within the park or not. The parking area is some walking distance up the river from the park boundary, on the far side of this land, and so the dam will likely affect access for walking up the Makaroro. Last time I was at that entrance, Easter 2013, there were plenty of people around making use of that part of the river for hunting access, tramping access, fishing, and other things. I'm assuming there's some kind of plan to create an alternative access route for the park around the edge, but haven't checked and obviously there's still going to be mixed reaction to this.

There are still heaps of issues with Stewardship Land generally. Mostly it's situations where DOC has never gotten around to assessing its actual value. One of the major problems with the Mokihinui River, on the flange of Kahurangi National Park, was that it had never been officially assessed for its actual value, even though it's generally thought to be high value. Consequently it became a legal possibility for that land to be simply swapped away without serious public consultation, pending all the additional value checks which are required (but sometimes politically influenced). In that sense, Ruahine Forest Park is actually more protected than the Mokihinui River, because RFP has actually been classified as a Conservation Park. (It merely happened before DOC came into existence!)

MikeM said...

Oh. To clarify, I don't want to excuse all the crap that's been going on as far as political interference with DOC's submission. That's really disturbing.

I also didn't mean to suggest that access up the river is the only issue worth considering. Obviously the health and significance of the river itself, whether it's flooded inside the park or outside, is a big thing.

Barbara Martin said...

Everytime any government makes a decision to flood natural habitat is a tragedy. Hopefully this will be resolved in a positive manner.

David Dodge said...

Hey Robb I I sympathize with you too mate I have been dreading the day that this dam gets built I first saw it in a fish and game mag about 3 or 4 years ago. I don't know if it has the go ahead yet as the dam may lie on a fault line and it will raise silt levels below which will greatly increase flood risk. I have just come out of upper mak this weekend I too love this river I am connected to it also, there were so many trout in the river it was unbelievable this will be ruined as I want my kids to experience this magical place and the fishery and hunting it provides im really gutted which is why I went in there just incase I want to remember how good it was. Yours,
David Dodge Ruahine hunter gatherer.

troutbirder said...

Money. Its all about money....:(

MikeM said...

Here's some more to be annoyed about on the politicisation of this dam, sadly.

Ojibwe Confessions said...

It's bad eh Rob? I know you are in love with the wilds, the earth. so feel for you.

hope you continue on your outings and never ever stop.