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Temporary Relocation – An Option For Consideration

Media release, 10 December 2003

Temporary Relocation – An Option For Consideration

Meridian Energy is continuing to talk with people who are directly affected by Project Aqua about the option of temporary relocation if the project proceeds but says it is up to each individual to decide what is best for them and their lifestyle or business.

Meridian Energy is currently providing such people – described in legal terms as “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 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.

Meridian Energy has offered to relocate residential Directly Affected Parties within approximately 100 metres of the proposed construction zone.

“Many people have stated that they don’t want to relocate and so are negotiating mitigation packages that will allow them to stay. Our initial discussions indicate that most people who want to be temporarily relocated would prefer to stay as close as possible to their existing location and Meridian Energy has made a commitment to facilitate this where-ever possible,” says Meridian Energy spokesperson Alan Seay.

“We are investigating the various relocation options as part of the ongoing investigation and planning process. This will take some time and involve Meridian working closely with councils, which have the responsibility for the long term planning for communities in the Waitaki Valley. In the meantime, Meridian Energy has been assessing options around the purchase of some properties and sections, however this is in the early stages and needs to link to the other process already underway.”

“Meridian Energy will have alternative accommodation organised by the time construction of Project Aqua starts. Meridian Energy will also pay ongoing costs associated with maintaining the property that a Directly Affected Party had to leave,” says Mr Seay.

Meridian Energy would maintain the property to the same standard and that could include caring for gardens, pruning roses, draining the hot water cylinder and pipes prior to winter. Each situation will be different. These sorts of matters would be discussed with Directly Affected Parties to allay any concerns people may have about moving away for a period of time.

Mr Seay says it also needs to be remembered that if new information comes to light, or the effects are more than first anticipated, Meridian Energy will change the mitigation measures accordingly.

“Mitigation is a major priority for Meridian Energy and we want to get it right,” he concluded.

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.

Background

What is mitigation?
- Mitigation is a major focus for Meridian Energy and we want to get it right.
- The Resource Management Act requires a resource consent applicant (in this case, Meridian Energy) to avoid, remedy or mitigate as far as practicable any adverse effects resulting from its activities.
- Mitigation means to lessen or reduce any identifiable adverse effects.
- The proposed activities in this case are the construction and the operation of Project Aqua.

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.

Who/what is a Directly Affected Party?
- Directly Affected Parties have been identified by independent experts as being affected by 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 they will or may be affected during the construction and/or operation of Project Aqua if it goes ahead.
- Meridian Energy must mitigate those effects as far as practicable.

What is a Mitigation Agreement?
- Mitigation agreements set out the understanding between Meridian Energy and Directly Affected Parties about how the effects of Project Aqua will be addressed.
- Meridian Energy is committed to ensuring that thorough and reasonable mitigation agreements are negotiated with Directly Affected Parties to mitigate the anticipated adverse effects of Project Aqua. Mitigation agreements will provide certainty for Directly Affected Parties over what mitigation measures would be provided should Project Aqua proceed.
- The agreements will be subject to Meridian Energy obtaining all necessary approvals and authorisations to allow Project Aqua to proceed, and being satisfied that Project Aqua is technically and commercially viable.
- If Project Aqua does not go ahead for some reason, there will be no need to provide the mitigation.
- Mitigation agreements and payments to Directly Affected Parties are lawful and a commonly accepted practice.

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 relocation of Directly Affected Parties?

- Meridian Energy has offered to relocate residential Directly Affected Parties within approximately 100 metres of the proposed construction zone (Category A/residential).
- Most people have indicated that they don’t want to relocate but if they do decide to, this could be in Kurow, away from the construction area. Others have indicated that they would like to be relocated to Oamaru for example.
- If someone accepts an offer of temporary relocation, Meridian Energy will give them at least two months notice before they need to move.
- Meridian Energy will have alternative accommodation organised by the time construction of Project Aqua starts.
- Alternatively, Meridian Energy can appoint a real estate agent to help a Directly Affected Party find a suitable property and will cover their costs of relocation to that property.
- Meridian Energy will also pay ongoing costs associated with maintaining the property that a Directly Affected Party had to leave.
- Our initial discussions indicate that most people being temporarily relocated would prefer to stay as close as possible to their existing location.
- Meridian Energy has made a commitment to facilitate this whereever possible.

What will happen to a residential property if someone chooses to temporarily relocate?
- The agreement sets out the process to be followed for temporary relocation where a residential property is located close to the construction zone (Category A).
- Meridian Energy is not offering temporary relocation in respect of properties located further away from the construction zone. In those circumstances, Meridian Energy may consider renting the property if appropriate.

What sort of maintenance will Meridian Energy do at a property while someone is temporarily relocated?
- Meridian Energy would maintain the property to the same standard and that could include caring for gardens, pruning roses, draining the hot water cylinder and pipes prior to winter. Each situation will be different.
- These sort of matters would be discussed with Directly Affected Parties to allay any concerns people may have about moving away for a period of time.

For those who live very close to the construction zone but don’t want to relocate and agree to other mitigation measures, what happens if the effects are worse than expected?
- Meridian Energy will look at this again and if necessary, change the mitigation measures accordingly. In these cases the agreement will provide that if, during construction, Meridian and the owner agree in writing that the owner should be relocated then the temporary relocation provisions apply.
- Further, the agreement provides that if the effects are different than those anticipated at the time of signing the agreement then Meridian must negotiate in good faith with the Directly Affected Party whether any new effect is to be addressed by further mitigation measures.

What happens if new information becomes available before construction that could change the effects on a property?
- Meridian Energy will look at this again and if necessary change the mitigation measures accordingly. Once again, the agreement provides that if the effects are different than those expected at the time of signing the agreement then Meridian must negotiate in good faith with the Directly Affected Party whether any new effect is to be addressed by further mitigation measures.


ENDS

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