NGO files lawsuit to block Mackenzie Basin land conversions

The Environmental Defence Society filed proceedings in the Environment Court late last week in a bid to block “destructive land use conversions” in the Mackenzie basin.

According to the environmental NGO, tens of thousands of hectares of the Mackenzie basin are being transformed into irrigation circles at an unprecedented rate, without proper regard for the ecological and landscape effects.

The NGO warns that the areas of vegetation being cleared consist of critically endangered or vulnerable rare ecosystems that support endemic invertebrate, lizards, freshwater fish, and bird and plant species.

“We have recently become aware of the increasing pace of land use conversions which are destroying valued landscape and ecosystems,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“Land use changes are happening without approval from Mackenzie District Council … The council is not enforcing the relevant rule in its plan. We have therefore filed urgent proceedings in the Environment Court seeking to require the district council to enforce its plan”, he said.

The NGO said it has filed the lawsuit as a means of testing the lawfulness of the current approach and to pause conversions until a proper planning framework is in place.

“We are questioning the basis on which take water consents are apparently being approved by the regional council without regard for the integrated management of other natural resources including matters of national importance.

“Our contention is that the RMA can’t have envisaged that the destruction of nationally and internationally threatened ecosystems and a world-renowned landscape could occur with impunity,” Mr Taylor concluded.

According to the NGO, the area is an outstanding natural landscape with its tussock grasslands constituting a valued tourist attraction.