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Local government urged to back ratepayers

Local government urged to back ratepayers

District and regional councils from Manukau to Taupo are being urged today to back their ratepayers and oppose Transpower’s 400kV transmission line proposal.

A mayors’ forum in Hamilton today (Friday), co-ordinated by Local Government NZ to discuss the Transpower grid upgrade proposal, will hear presentations by Electricity Commissioner Roy Hemmingway, New Era Energy representatives David Graham and Bob McQueen, and Transpower CEO Ralph Craven.

New Era Energy, the umbrella organisation for communities and lobby groups opposing Ralph Craven’s 400kV line plan, said ratepayers are closely watching the performance of their district and regional councils on this issue.

“This is not an issue on which councils should be neutral,” said NEE deputy chair Bob McQueen. “Resource consent hearings for Transpower’s plan will be heard by a joint panel of independent commissioners, so councils have been freed of their regulatory responsibilities under the RMA, and must now become advocates for the interests of their ratepayers.”

Matamata-Piako District Council was already showing strong leadership in addressing the environmental issues and working collaboratively with landowners and NEE. In other councils, individual councillors were well informed on the grid upgrade issues and were backing NEE’s campaign for a better solution than Transpower’s flawed proposal.

“Ratepayers and communities affected by the Transpower proposal are now expecting to see much more visible action and advocacy by the local councils for their opposition to the 400kV pylon line,” he said. “These people have presumably sought election to make sure their communities are healthy and desirable places to live. Now is the time for them to stand up and be counted.”

NEE is fully aware of the forecasted Auckland generation shortage by 2010, Bob McQueen said. “We support the need to consider new generation, conservation, and even transmission alternatives to alleviate the impending shortage, but the 400kV ‘line to nowhere’ proposal is the worst of all options, and doesn’t bring on any new generation for Auckland. It will provide cheaper transmission for Transpower, and more profits, but New Zealand will pay a very high price in economic, social, health and environmental terms. Our members are absolutely determined this line will not be built.”

Since Transpower announced its preferred route on May 14, the overwhelming response from landowners and communities on both routes had been one of solidarity, he said. “No one will be satisfied until common sense prevails and Transpower comes up with better and more acceptable solutions.”

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