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Copeland seeks Dobson hydro review

Copeland seeks Dobson hydro review

United Future's energy spokesman Gordon Copeland today called on the Government to consider establishing an arbitration mechanism concerning Conservation Minister Chris Carter's decision to can the Dobson hydro-electricity scheme on the West Coast.

"We have here a classic case of competing public interest outcomes," he said. "On the one hand, we have Trust Power and the West Coast regional mayors desperately seeking permission to go ahead with a much needed hydro scheme and the public benefit argument would appear to be conclusive.

"We're on the verge of an electricity crisis and here we have a commercially viable and perpetually sustainable hydro proposal in a high rainfall area on the West Coast. It's really an answer made in heaven.

"On the other hand we have the Minister of Conservation giving a flat 'no' to the proposal because he believes it is contrary to the nation's conservation goals. Surely the commonsense answer is an open and transparent arbitration so that these competing public benefits can be weighed against each other. An informed decision could then be taken against the criteria of national benefit," said Mr Copeland.

"I believe that the Minister's decision should, as a matter of principle, be contestable.

"It's unreasonable to expect the public to have confidence in a process which appoints the Minister both the judge and jury in these matters. A precedent for arbitration exists in other areas of administrative law.

"When it comes to mining for example, the Governor General can, by Order in Council, appoint an arbitrator on the grounds of public interest.

"This could serve as a model, which we could easily adopt and use in the Dobson situation. Public confidence demands no less," he concluded.

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