Why is the Hawke?s Bay Regional Council protecting polluters?

The feedlot at Ocean Beach. This feedlot was on sand dunes inside the predator-proof fence at the Cape Sanctuary.

The Hawke?s Bay Regional Council is responsible for protecting the environment in Hawke?s Bay. The elected council are largely concerned about protecting the environment, but there is a disconnect between the council and the council staff.

This disconnect is best demonstrated by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council?s failure to deal with feedlots. Feedlots are the disgraceful practice where cattle live in small areas where they are fed supplementary food and churn the ground to mud while living in their own effluent.

Feedlotters profit from the intensive farming while passing on the costs of the pollution to society. The local rivers are adversely affected by the huge amount of effluent that ends up in them from feedlots, all so that a very small number of farmers can profit without paying to mitigate their pollution.

As a staunch fiscal conservative my objection is not the pollution itself. My objection is that society is unfairly paying the cost when the people who are incurring the cost and profiting from the cost should pay the cost. If the feedlotters took responsibility for their pollution and assumed all the costs, I would not object to their farming practice.

The feedlots in Hawke?s Bay are so bad that the Labour Environment spokesman David Parker was mocked in South Canterbury when he showed photos of feedlots during the 2017 election campaign. The South Canterbury farmers informed him that the feedlots would not be legal in their area.

When the new council was elected in 2016 and a sensible chairman was elected I expected change. When the Chief Executive who was promoting the dam was sacked, I expected change. Yet the feedlots have continued without the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council taking action against them even though there are multiple legal grounds for the council to prohibit them.

Due to council inaction, I took legal action myself, not against the feedlotters, but against the council. The council are clearly failing in their duty to protect the environment and to force those who incur costs to pay those costs. I had several grounds to take a case but decided to concentrate on the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council?s failure to enforce its Regional Resource Management Plan, or the very similar Coastal Environment Plan.

Initially, I thought that it would be possible to persuade the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council that they should actually enforce these rules without going to court. It wasn?t, and it wasn?t even possible to discuss these issues with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council staff. The staff proceeded to take action to defend the polluters, and the councillors were not aware of this until the story hit the media.

The case I was bringing used the example of the feedlot inside the predator-proof fence at the Cape Sanctuary. I was able to resolve the issue with the landowner, and the feedlot has ceased, so I put the case on hold. I put the case on hold not because I thought the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council had magically become sensible on feedlots, but because the feedlot in question was dealt with.

I was subsequently surprised to discover that the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council were demanding $15,000 of costs for the withdrawn case. They claimed they would have won. They then reduced the costs to just under $8,000, still claiming they would have won.

My solicitor has suggested that they either drop the claim of costs or the hold will come off? and the case will proceed. The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council staff need to understand that their role is to protect the environment, not protect polluters. In many ways, I would prefer to proceed with the case to demonstrate to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council that the same staff that were involved in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme are still making decisions to protect those who want to use public money to degrade the environment, rather than protect it.