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Minister misleads over Dobson hydro

Minister misleads over Dobson hydro

Conservation Minister Chris Carter's misleading of Parliament and the public over the Dobson Hydro Project would put the Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahaf to shame, says National Environment Spokesperson Dr Nick Smith.

"The Minister said on April 16 regarding the Dobson scheme "This particular site, because of its ecological values, that are fairly unique on the West Coast, is a site worth preserving. We've been down this path. This project has already been to the High Court. It has been rejected".

"This statement was blatantly wrong. This Government declined the Dobson Hydro Scheme in 2001, it has never been to the High Court or any court. The Minister can't claim he was referring to the Ngakawau Dam court case of 1995.

"The Minister calling the dam a "little micro" and "micro hydro" dam is also misleading. Dobson would be the largest new hydro electric development since the Clyde Dam construction in the 1980s. It would be 50m high, with a 5 square km lake generating 62 megawatts of power - meeting 80 percent of the West Coast's electricity needs. "Micro hydro" describes projects of less than 5 megawatts, more typically schemes like the Golden Bay's 0.8 megawatt Pupu scheme.

"The Minister has also claimed that the scheme is an ecological reserve gazetted by the last National Government. National extended the Card Creek Ecological Reserve in 1997 but this is no where near the proposed hydro and is unaffected. Five hundred hectares of the reserve is required for the scheme, 300 hectares of which was set aside for Timberlands West Coast in Labour's 1986 West Coast Accord and was only added to the reserve in 2001 by this Government. The other 200 hectares was gazetted in 1983 as Ecological Reserve.

"The Minister's claim that he has no choice but to decline this project is also misleading. The Government already has a Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Bill before the House, which takes significant areas of land out of reserves and National parks for roading and other public uses.

"Chris Carter must stop misleading the public over the Government's foolish rejection of this sensible hydro scheme. It is unbalanced decisions of this sort that is exacerbating the current power crisis. A wise Minister would accept an error was made in deciding this project and now let this project proceed," Dr Smith said.

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