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Water-only consents for lower Waitako plans

MEDIA RELEASE: 30 March 2006

Water-only consents the first stage of lower Waitaki River hydro plans

Meridian Energy announced today that it was beginning consultation with the communities of the Lower Waitaki River on water-only consents for a North Bank hydro power tunnel concept.

“We presented a North Bank Tunnel Concept to the Waitaki Water Allocation Board last July when we requested that a hydro allocation be made available on the lower Waitaki River. When the Waitaki Regional Plan decision was released in October 2005 we were pleased to see that provision had been made for hydro,“ Project Manager Tony McCormick said.

Meridian Energy’s investigations to date have shown that there is potential for a viable tunnel concept if the water resource can be secured. This staged consenting approach ensures that the essential resource, the water, is available before millions of dollars are invested on detailed engineering investigations and to ensure the community has the opportunity to understand and have input into the concept as it develops. The water-only consents would not authorise the construction of the tunnel or any power station.

The intention is to apply for water-only consents for hydro electric generation from the Waitaki Dam to Stonewall, about 34 km downstream. Over this distance the river drops about 128 metres and it is this elevation drop, or head, that would be utilised by the tunnel concept to generate electricity. The consents would be for a water take at Lake Waitaki and water discharge back into the Waitaki River at Stonewall on the north bank opposite and upstream of Black Point.

A monthly flow regime is proposed for the Waitaki River based on the variable, seasonal values and the electricity demand cycle. This has higher minimum flows than the existing regime and reflects the science and technical work that has been undertaken on the river. The minimum flows vary between 110 and 150 cumecs based on environmental and recreational values including fishing.

All of the effects relating to the water take will be fully assessed in order to provide assurances to the consent authority and the community. Technical assessments have been commissioned on the river environment including wetlands, in-river habitat, salmon angling, recreation, groundwater, landscape and abstractive users. It is expected that these reports will be available in May when open days are planned and workshops on specialist areas will be co-ordinated.

“Meridian Energy is committed to consulting with the community now and throughout this water-only resource consent process and on the separate but future land use and construction consents that would follow when the water-only consents process has been completed successfully. An independent specialist has been engaged to prepare a Social Impact Assessment for the water-only consents and he will be contacting groups and individuals in the communities soon,” Mr McCormick said.

ENDS

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