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PM Inaction Contributes to Power Crisis

PM Inaction Contributes to Power Crisis

Thursday 17 Apr 2003 Ken Shirley Press Releases -- Energy

It is clear that the Prime Minister is not prepared to confront misguided conservation extremists and insist that Conservation Minister Chris Carter stops blocking the Arnold River $200 million hydro investment at Dobson, ACT New Zealand Energy Spokesman Ken Shirley said today.

"It is well established that the country is short of generating capacity with demand increasing at 150 megawatts per year. There has been no significant new investment in generation for over 10 years now. Our hydro schemes which contribute 60% of our generating capacity are extremely vulnerable to the impact of dry years.

"The outlook is not good with Maui Gas projected to be unavailable past 2005. This leaves two options for the medium term. Coal powered thermal generation and the development of new hydro stations that are not subject to rainfall constraints.

"The Arnold River project proposes increasing the capacity of an existing 15 megawatt plant to 60 megawatts and involves the flooding of a small valley of some 50 hectares which has no unique ecological characteristic containing substantial areas of broome and gorse.

"The extreme environmental movement of New Zealand has vowed to turn this into a "Save Manapouri" campaign even though any analogy is misplaced. The West Coat of the South Island is renowned for its reliable rainfall and 62 megawatts would make the West Coast self-sufficient in electricity with a substantial surplus for expansion and supply to the national grid to the rest of the country.

"This scheme would also obviate the need to upgrade the existing transmission lines serving the West Coast which pass through very difficult and remote terrain.

"The local Councils of the West Coast are working with Trustpower and have offered the Department of Conservation a land swap providing a greater area of pristine indigenous forest in exchange for the 50 hectares to be flooded in Card Creek.

"The Minister of Conservation has consistently rejected this option outright and it is clear that he would not take that position without the full backing of the Prime Minister.

"It must also be noted that the Department of Conservation is blocking access to prime coal resources such as Pike River and Te Kuha thereby severely constraining the utilisation of New Zealand's coal reserves which are our only other medium term option. It is interesting to note that contracts have been signed for 600,000 tons of coal from Australia and Indonesia to fire the Huntly thermal power station with supplies flowing from July this year. We are prepared to use coal from abroad while turning our backs on our own resources.

"The Labour Government is increasingly tying itself into impossible knots in the energy sector with RMA, compliance costs and Department of Conservation intransigence denying access for the development of new hydro schemes coupled with the foolish adherence to the fundamentally flawed Kyoto Protocol which no other Southern Hemisphere country is subject to.

"New Zealand's looming energy crisis is avoidable but the Government is clearly not prepared to be decisive and is certainly not prepared to risk confronting extremists in the conservation movement," Mr Shirley said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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