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TrustPower Applauds Environment Court Decision

TrustPower Applauds Environment Court Decision

TrustPower is applauding a recent Environment Court decision, which it says sends a clear signal that the Resource Management Act process should not be used to advance arguments that are unmeritorious, technically flawed, or lack substance.

The Environment Court has announced its decision to award TrustPower costs against the Save Lake Mahinerangi Society, which had appealed the conditions of a consent issued to TrustPower under the Resource Management Act for its Waipori Power Scheme.

TrustPower was required under the RMA to obtain a consent in order to continue operating the Waipori power scheme, using a lake created 80 years ago specifically for the purpose of supplying electricity.

The Environment Court noted that certain of the arguments and evidence advanced by the Save Lake Mahinerangi Society were ones on which the appellant could never succeed. The Court also noted that the Society alleged effects in respect of pesticide use, dust generation, erosion, sedimentation and visual amenity without any expert evidence being called in support of those issues.

Environment Court Judge J A Smith concluded that the Society had advised that it had no funds to meet an order for costs, and he did recognise that it's appointing of senior counsel had served to restrict the range of items argued on appeal, and thus the hearing time required. He noted that had the Society not retained senior counsel, it seemed likely that the Court would have been of a mind to award costs in the order of $60,000 to $80,000 or more. On the basis that the Society's counsel had added value to the process through focussing of issues, Judge Smith concluded that an award of $20,000 to TrustPower was appropriate as a contribution towards the costs incurred, enforceable through the District Court at Dunedin if necessary.

TrustPower Chief Executive, Keith Tempest, says the company is pleased that pragmatism and common sense have had a victory over unreasonable and unjustified opposition to a legitimate business that was of both regional and national benefit.

"I think the Court has sent a clear signal that it is unreasonable to demand an improvement to amenity values, when those values would not be there in the first place if it were not for the business activity. It is a message that should be heeded by others who might contemplate using the RMA appeals progress to further their own cause, at the expense of others, without ensuring that their argument is supported by fact."

The Waipori power scheme was constructed in the early 1900s as a community project to improve the security of electricity supply to the region - an important role that it continues to play today. The Resource Management Act process has cost TrustPower some $2 million dollars in hearing, appeal and associated costs, simply to keep the facility operating. These RMA related costs, which are also being incurred by other electricity generating schemes around New Zealand, are ultimately borne by consumers as an additional cost on their electricity bill.

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