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Community Forums Set Up For Aqua Issues

Community Forums Set Up For Aqua Issues

Media Release
For immediate distribution: Tuesday March 16 2004

COMMUNITY FORUMS SET UP FOR AQUA ISSUES Communities affected by Project Aqua are being offered a new communications channel to provide them with timely information and answers to questions they may have about the project.

Project Aqua Community Liaison Forums are being set up in Kurow, Duntroon, Waimate and Oamaru by Meridian Energy. Forum meetings will be held at least every two months.

"While each forum is expected to have a core of standing members representing key community groups, all residents of the district are welcome to attend," said Meridian Energy spokesman Alan Seay.

"Key issues for discussion at forum meetings will relate to the Œhuman impacts' of project planning and construction, such as traffic, workforce planning, plans for managing construction effects, relocation of affected parties and plans for the river," he said.

The series of forums will start with meetings in Duntroon and Kurow on April 6. The first series of meeting will have as their main focus the draft Further Community and Social Effects Assessment report that was released in February.

Meetings for Oamaru and Waimate will follow in May.

"The authors of the report will be at the meeting and Meridian is keen to discuss the issues raised by the report and its recommendations," said Alan Seay.

"The role of the forums is not to deal with individual issues, but with the wider social and community impact Project Aqua may have on the Waitaki Valley community. The forum structure will provide the basis for workshops on social effect assessment issues and Meridians hopes the discussions will lead to Community Impact Agreements to be completed before the project commences."

Details of the forum venues and timing will be published nearer the event.

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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