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Concession approval for Kaituna hydro proposal


19 December 2007

Concession approval for Kaituna hydro proposal

A 60 year concession to Bay of Plenty Energy Limited to place part of a weir on, and to inundate a portion of, the Upper Kaituna Scenic Reserve on the Kaituna River, has been granted by the Director-General of Conservation Al Morrison, under delegated authority from the Minister of Conservation. The approval is subject to the satisfactory negotiation of conditions.

Mr Morrison said he wanted to emphasise that this was only the first stage of the necessary approvals needed to be gained by the energy company. For the project to go ahead, the company still needs to gain resource consents from the regional council, Environment Bay of Plenty, before the river can be dammed.

“To say that this has been a challenging decision would be an understatement” Mr Morrison said, “on the one hand there is the argument that it is less than a hectare of scenic reserve that will be affected but on the other the requirements of the Reserves and Conservation Acts must be complied with.” Mr Morrison said.

In making the decision Mr Morrison said that he was satisfied the approval met all statutory tests and that the terms and conditions of the lease and easement would ensure that effects on the reserve would only be minor. “Impacts on the scenic splendour of the reserve, including the King fern for which it is noted, will be managed through conditions to ensure they are kept to a minimum” he said.

Mr Morrison wanted to thank all those who had input into the process especially during the public consultation stage. “While the process had been long it had been thorough enabling me to make a fully informed decision” he said.


Background:

The Kaituna River, in the Bay of Plenty, passes from Lake Rotoiti through a densely forested, a steep and narrow gorge well known for its white water rafting and through the Kaituna Scenic Reserve. It then meanders through the alluvial terraces of the mid Kaituna River before finally feeding the nationally important wetlands of the Kaituna Wildlife Management Reserve, and out to sea at Maketu in a nationally significant estuary.

Q&A
What is a concession?
Any individual or business that wants to use public conservation land for commercial purposes requires a concession approved under the Conservation Act.

What is the concession application for?
In June 2005 the Bay of Plenty Conservancy received a concession application from Bay of Plenty Electicity Limited (BOPE), now Bay of Plenty Energy Limited, for the components of a proposed hydro-electric scheme located on the Upper Kaituna Scenic Reserve. The application is for a 60 year lease over part of the scenic reserve to construct the left abutment of a proposed 12m high weir or dam on it. The application also included a proposal to inundate up to a hectare along a 1.2km of forested river margin for storage of water

What was considered in the concession?
The consideration of this concession was confined to the impact of the proposed dam and inundation on the Upper Kaituna Scenic Reserve. It does not include an assessment of the entire hydroelectric scheme and its effects on the Kaituna River, or private land. In considering the application for a concession the Director-General, on behalf of the Minister of Conservation, was only considering effects on the Upper Kaituna Scenic Reserve.

What was involved in assessing the application?
The application was assessed in terms of the Conservation Act, the Reserves Act and the Conservation Management Strategy for the Bay of Plenty Conservancy. After consideration of the application by the Conservancy the application was approved in principle and notified for public consultation. A total of 308 submissions were received with 106 in support, 201 in opposition and 1 making only comment. A hearing of the submissions was followed by a draft report and recommendation which was made available for the applicant to comment on. The report and recommendation and response by the applicant were considered by the decision maker, Director-General Al Morrison.

What has been approved?
There are two parts to the approval, firstly a lease for the portion of the weir on the scenic reserve, and secondly an easement for the inundation of storage water over the river margin of the scenic reserve. The approval is subject to the satisfactory negotiation of conditions.

What conditions will this approval still subject to?
The conditions to be agreed are to ensure impacts and adverse effects on the scenic reserve will be minor and address mitigation and offsets. Bay of Plenty Energy Limited has already proposed mitigation measures in order to reduce adverse effects. These measures include reducing the visual impact of the dam, the replanting of disturbed areas and undertaking pest control in the Reserve.

Does this decision set a precedent?
No, all concession applications are considered on their merit in terms of the relevant legislation and departmental management policies and plans.

Does this approval mean the project can now proceed?
No, not until resource consents under the Resource Management Act have been granted. BOPE must apply for resource consents to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Environment BOP) who will consider all the effects of the hydroelectric scheme.

What about the effects on the Kaituna River itself?
The effects on the Kaituna River itself will be dealt with by Environment Bay of Plenty under the Resource Management Act


ENDS

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