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Experts Used In Construction Effects Assessment

Media release
For immediate distribution, Friday 21 November 2003

Experts Used In Assessment Of Effects Of Construction Zone

Meridian Energy has contracted independent experts to identify the properties, people and businesses that could potentially be affected by Project Aqua. These experts are also assisting with advice on appropriate mitigation measures and options.

Project Aqua is a proposed hydro-electric scheme that would run along the south side of the lower Waitaki Valley. It would generate enough low-cost, renewable electricity to power the equivalent of about 375 000 households in an average year and about 250 000 households in a very dry year. A very dry year is a 1-in-20 year event.

Meridian Energy is currently providing Directly Affected Parties with formal Mitigation Agreements for consideration. These agreements set out the understanding between Meridian Energy and Directly Affected Parties about how the anticipated adverse effects of Project Aqua will be addressed. Meridian Energy is committed to ensuring fair and reasonable agreements are negotiated to mitigate the anticipated adverse effects of Project Aqua. Mitigation Agreements also provide certainty over what mitigation measures would be provided should Project Aqua proceed.

“For many months, Meridian Energy has been in discussion with Directly Affected Parties who live very close to the construction zone of the proposed hydro-electric scheme,” says Meridian Energy spokesperson Alan Seay.

“There has been talk of some people on one side of the street being offered one form of mitigation and others on the other side being offered something different altogether. The key point is the distance of a property from the proposed construction zone and therefore the potential effects on that property and the people who live there, rather than which side of the street someone lives on.”

“Different properties and people may be affected in different ways and may require different forms of mitigation. The distance from the proposed construction zone will make a difference to the potential noise and dust effects that may be experienced, for example. Assessment reports have been prepared by independent experts, which show what properties and people will or may be affected by the anticipated adverse effects of the construction and/or operation of Project Aqua, if it goes ahead. Meridian Energy must mitigate those effects as far as practicable and is currently negotiating formal Mitigation Agreements with many of these people.”

Mitigation can range from double-glazing and air conditioning, to clothes dryers, upgrades of existing boundary fences, temporary relocation or property purchase.

“If someone chooses to sign the formal agreement and after signing new and relevant information comes to light, Meridian Energy will review the agreement and if necessary, make any appropriate changes. What that means is that if the effects are worse for someone living further away from the construction zone than first anticipated, Meridian Energy must renegotiate the Mitigation Agreement in good faith.”

“Mitigation is a major focus for Meridian Energy and we want to get it right,” concluded Alan Seay.

Background

What are the possible effects?
- Most of the time for most of the Directly Affected Parties, the effects are expected to relate to one or the other of a combination of dust, noise, visual or vibration.
- If the project proceeds, there will also be community wide effects, which are still being assessed.

Who/what is a Directly Affected Party?
- Directly Affected Parties have been identified by independent experts as potentially being affected by the anticipated adverse effects of the construction and/or operation of Project Aqua.
- Different people may be affected in different ways and may require different forms of mitigation. For some time Meridian Energy has been in discussion with Directly Affected Parties who live very close to the construction zone about the proposed Project Aqua hydro-electric scheme.
- An Assessment of Effects (AEE) has been prepared by independent experts, which shows that certain people will or may be affected by the anticipated adverse effects of the construction and/or operation of Project Aqua, if it goes ahead.
- Meridian Energy must mitigate those effects as far as practicable.

How many Directly Affected Parties have been identified?
- Given the large area the scheme covers, there are understandably a significant number of people who have been identified as potentially being directly affected by the anticipated adverse effects of the construction and/or operation of Project Aqua. As technical investigations are refined and negotiations continue, however, it may be that more people are identified.
- What is important to Meridian Energy is to ‘get mitigation right’ – that is to assess how it is anticipated people would be affected by the scheme, and to provide appropriate mitigation for those effects.

What is Meridian Energy offering?
- There are aspects of the mitigation agreements that are similar for all Directly Affected Parties and aspects that differ depending on how individuals are impacted.
- Meridian Energy has spent considerable time and effort exploring all the mitigation options so that the most appropriate package can be developed for each Directly Affected Party.
- Meridian Energy is offering financial support to people to obtain professional advice and in recognition of the time and effort taken in negotiating, considering and agreeing to the mitigation agreement.
- Meridian Energy is also offering solatium payments, which are in summary, a form of financial recognition for the temporary inconvenience, loss of enjoyment, and the short–term impact on the marketability of identified property assets during the period of time that they will be directly affected by construction.
- These mitigation measures demonstrate the importance of mitigation to Meridian Energy.

What are some of the mitigation measures, apart from financial mitigation, that Meridian Energy is offering?
- Mitigation could include some or all of the following:
- Double glazing and air conditioning
- Constructing or upgrading existing boundary fences
- Clothes dryers
- Temporary relocation or property purchase
- Business loss that is not offset by Project Aqua
- Monitoring for vibration effects and remedying faults caused by construction
- Internal and external property cleaning.

What about financial mitigation?
- That is part of this process but is just one aspect. Mitigation is not just about money.
- Payments to Directly Affected Parties are lawful and a commonly accepted practice under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Who gets what?
- It depends on the anticipated effects of the proposed project on an individual.
- If the anticipated effects of the scheme are such that they cannot be completely avoided and there is still some inconvenience or loss of enjoyment of their property, then an agreement might be reached whereby Meridian Energy provides financial recognition for that inconvenience or loss of enjoyment. The amount varies depending on the location of the property relative to the proposed construction zone.

How did you decide?
- Every mitigation agreement is a result of analysing the anticipated effects of the proposal on that person and their property, and negotiating an agreement that mitigates those effects.
- Those anticipated effects differ depending on the location of the property relative to the proposed construction zone.

ENDS

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