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Project Aqua Canal Alignment Balances Interests

Media release
Tuesday 15 July 2003

Project Aqua Canal Alignment Balances Interests

Meridian Energy has sought to balance competing interests when deciding on the canal alignment for its proposed Project Aqua.

The proposed Project Aqua hydro-electricity scheme involves a 60km canal with six power stations, along the south side of the lower Waitaki Valley. It would produce 524 megawatts of renewable electricity each year.

Since April 2001 Meridian Energy has considered a range of options for the canal alignment based on: geotechnical investigation; consultation with landowners, irrigation companies, Takata Whenua, environmental organisations and other interested parties; and engineering design reviews.

“As a result of the hundreds of hours of work and investigation, we believe we have found a canal alignment that appropriately balances the social, environmental and visual impacts as well as the engineering risks and cost, ” says Meridian Energy spokesperson Alan Seay.

“The canal alignment will have effects no matter where it is and Meridian Energy is mitigating these effects as far as practicably possible.”

A comprehensive review of the canal alignment and power station locations was undertaken in December 2001, to address any issues identified along the entire canal route. As a result, many sections of the canal were relocated and some of the canal alignment was revised to lessen impacts on landowners and farm infrastructure. These changes were made after a comprehensive review of the environmental, landowner, engineering and cost implications of each of these amendments.

Several reviews have been undertaken to specifically look at the location of the second stage of the canal, which starts at Black Point. In a report study by Tonkin and Taylor Ltd in July 2002 three main issues were identified with moving the canal alignment of stage two of the project closer to the river. They were:
- The need for substantial flood protection works that would be required along the entire length of the canal;
- The large groundwater inflows that would occur into the canal due to the proximity to the river;
- The fact there are no terraces that could be utilised to assist in the different canal elevations, significantly increasing the total earthwork that would be required.

“Although there would have been some cost savings from the reduced impact on the existing irrigation schemes, this alignment would have involved 8.5 million cubic metres of additional material being sourced from nearby terraces resulting in considerable additional earthworks,” says Alan Seay.

“We considered that the advantages this alignment would have provided were outweighed by the significant engineering risk and the substantial cost increase of approximately $90 million, when compared to the current proposed alignment.”

“In considering the various options for the alignment of this section of the canal we had to consider a variety of factors, including cost. If we did not consider the cost of every individual part of the project, we would not be acting in the best interests of our shareholders – the New Zealand public,” says Alan Seay.

- For further information refer to page 3-5 to 3-11 of the Assessment of Effects on the Environment

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