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Request for Judicial Review of pylons decision

Media release from New Era Energy August 14, 2008

High Court to hear request for Judicial Review of pylons decision next week

The hearing on the call by New Era Energy for a High Court Judicial Review of the Electricity Commission’s July, 2007 decision to approve Transpower’s proposed 70 metre high 400kV pylon line through the Waikato, will begin in Wellington next week. A five day hearing is anticipated.

The Electricity Commission decision in 2007 to approve the line was the first “yes” that Transpower needed to go ahead with construction. Transpower must also await the outcome of the environmental RMA Board of Inquiry process which is currently receiving submissions from objectors in hearings in Hamilton, Takanini and Tokoroa.

“We believe the Judicial Review will uncover the predetermination, flawed processes and inappropriate external political influences that led to the Electricity Commission approving Transpower’s horrendous 220/400 kV proposal for a 200km transmission line on 70 metre pylons into Auckland” said Bob McQueen, spokesman for New Era Energy. “There were four clear errors in law made by the Electricity Commission, including illegality, irrationality, pre-determination and bias, and mistake of fact. The decision that the Commission arrived at to approve the Transpower proposal was not one that a reasonable, unbiased person would come to if the law had been followed”.

Affidavits from former Chair of the Electricity Commission, Roy Hemmingway, and dissenting Commission member Graham Pinnell have been filed with the High Court and support New Era’s claims. In addition, a large number of documents including staff reports and internal emails have been discovered which also support the case against the flawed decision.

Some of the papers filed with the request for Judicial Review, including Hemmingway’s affidavit, are available on the New Era Energy website at http://notowers.co.nz/jr

A decision from the Judicial Review hearing will likely not be available from the High Court until late 2008.

There are many reasons for New Era Energy’s continued strong opposition to the line, one of which is a huge concern for security of supply for Auckland. The Transpower proposal will in fact reduce the security of electricity supply to Auckland by 18,000 times, by putting most transmission into one giant, highly vulnerable line, which if it fails, could cascade into taking out electricity supply to most of the upper North Island, much like the huge blackouts in the US in recent years.

Other more secure and less expensive alternatives to the proposed line, which would have landowner support, and could be built much more quickly and cheaply than the billion dollar line proposed by Transpower, include reconductoring and duplexing the three existing supply lines to Auckland, and using less obtrusive transmission technology such as HVDC or conventional sized 220kV lines.
However, the best solution for Auckland’s future security of electricity supply is the construction of one or two new gas-fired generation plants in the Auckland region. Emerging policy announcements in the election lead-up seem to indicate this solution now has a high probability of being supported, which would make the proposed Transpower line completely unnecessary.

“There is no panic to have this line approved and built, as Transpower have misled the public and the Government into believing” says McQueen. “The best and most recent estimates of Auckland demand growth, constructed by the Electricity Commission, show that this line energised at 400kV line would definitely not be needed in the next 20 years, and likely not ever, if upgrading of existing lines and some new generation were to take place in the next few years.”

If the Judicial Review overturns the Electricity Commission decision, then it will be back to the drawing board for Transpower. It is highly unlikely the present proposal would be resubmitted to the Electricity Commission, as it would be sure to fail a properly applied Grid Investment Test. “We hope that the changes in the Transpower Board and senior managers over the last year or so, including the departure of the main 400kV advocate Ralph Craven, may stimulate a change in the corporate culture of the organisation, away from confrontation and bullying, into a new era of collaboration, consultation, and cost-effective engineering design”, says McQueen. “There are better, and cheaper alternatives to the 400kV line that landowners can get in behind and support – we hope a change of attitude at Transpower may be the best ultimate outcome from this prolonged and costly process”.

Leading New Era Energy’s legal team on the Judicial Review process is top Auckland barrister Paul Cavanagh, QC.


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