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River access would remain under Project Aqua

River access would remain under Project Aqua

There would be ‘no net loss’ of river access routes on the south side of the Waitaki River if Meridian Energy’s proposed Project Aqua hydro-electric scheme went ahead.

“Meridian Energy is proposing to provide alternative routes to existing access roads affected as a result of the operation of Project Aqua,” says Meridian Energy spokesperson Alan Seay. “These alternative routes would be as close as practicable to existing routes. They could, however, be in different places from existing routes because of the Project Aqua canal.”

Some disruption of existing access routes during the construction phase of Project Aqua is possible. Meridian Energy has, however, undertaken to liaise with or notify affected parties in advance of such an occurrence.

The location of previously indicated access routes may also change as a result of the further design being undertaken by Waihanga, the alliance formed to deliver Project Aqua. The provision and location of access routes across private land will still be subject to consultation and negotiation between the landowner involved and Meridian Energy. Individual arrangements for gaining access to the river across private land may need to be reaffirmed.

“Meridian Energy is seeking to maintain a level of access to the river similar to that which currently exists. This seems to strikes a good balance between those people seeking ready access to the river, and those who value the isolation and remoteness of some parts of the river-bed,” says Alan Seay.

Project Aqua is a proposed canal-based hydro-electric scheme in the Waitaki Valley near Oamaru. It would generate enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of about 375,000 households in an average rainfall year and 250,000 households in a very dry year such as occurred in 1992 (a 1 in 20 year event).

Project Aqua must be commercially viable and environmentally sustainable to proceed. It must cost less than other forms of generation (between 4.5c and 5c per kilowatt-hour). A major potential benefit of Project Aqua is that it could enable irrigation in the Waitaki district.

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