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No justification for Waitaki land-grab

No justification for Waitaki land-grab

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is questioning why the Government is giving a power company the right to forcibly acquire the property of private landholders.

Meridian Energy was last week granted the powers of a requiring authority by the Environment Minister in order to buy-up land it deems necessary for Project Aqua, its scheme to build a 60-kilometre power-canal in Otago's Waitaki Valley.

"At least three farmers have already been slapped with what one has described as a 'take it or leave it' offer from Meridian," said Jeanette Fitzsimons. "But profit-making corporations should not have draconian 'powers-of-state' to simply seize someone's home or farm.

'Requiring authority' status originally related to national networks like roads, rail, telecommunications and the national grid. As many of these have been corporatised or privatised, the right to compulsorily acquire land has gone to the corporation controlling these networks.

"Since, however, Meridian is not operating a network but is simply planning a big power scheme, the Government's actions smack of a return to Think Big style planning, where large projects get bulldozed through," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"These are powers that simply do not exist in corporate hands in any other democratic, industrialised country and we do not believe they should exist in this country.

"What makes the decision to grant these powers even more worrying is the fact that there is no publicly available assessment as to whether the $1.2 billion being spent on Project Aqua could have saved more power through energy efficiency improvements and generated more through solar and wind power plans.

"Meridian's scheme is not due for completion for at least another five years," noted Ms Fitzsimons. "There are alternative energy projects that could have been warming homes this winter.

"Before conferring these extraordinary powers on a corporation the Minister should have considered all the options and all the ramifications of her act."

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