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Greens Delighted At The Fall Of Aqua

29 March 2004
Greens delighted at the fall of Aqua

The Green Party congratulate Meridian Energy on its decision today to cancel Project Aqua.

Meridian Energy have canned their proposal to divert 73 per cent of the Waitaki River into a canal a week after the return to the House of resource legislation that had been substantially rewritten by the Local Government and Environment Select Committee chaired by Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"It is clear that Meridian have decided not to proceed in the face of huge opposition from New Zealanders for whom the Waitaki is a special river," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party Spokesperson on both Energy and Conservation.

"Maybe they now understand that we are not prepared to see our environment steadily destroyed in the name of continued energy growth.

"Meridian has not mentioned the Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill but it is clear that the select committee's rewrite of the Bill has been a major factor in their decision. Meridian chief executive Keith Turner says there are uncertainties around the resource consents - whether they would get one and how much water they would get. But only one thing has changed in the consent regime since they embarked on this proposal and that is the rewritten 'Waitaki Bill'.

"The only way Meridian was ever going to get 73 per cent of the river's water was if the regional council had no opportunity to set an environmental flow regime prior the consideration of water applications. The Select Committee's rewrite of the Bill specified that enough water had to be left in the river to protect its ecological and recreational values before hydropower and irrigation could even be contemplated. It is extremely unlikely that an independent Board with the skills and expertise required by the rewritten Bill would agree to the diversion of nearly three quarters of the river's flow.

"The Greens believe a general amendment to the Resource Management Act (RMA) is needed to ensure that regional councils are required to develop catchment management plans for all their major waterways, so that our other rivers are not put at risk in the same way the Waitaki has been.

"Meridian also says they will now invest in sustainable sources that will deliver energy sooner than Aqua could have. This means wind power. Meridian has found it easy to get resource consent for a wind farm in the Tararuas and we hope they will build on this success and develop many more such projects. Unlike Aqua, wind will produce power in a dry winter and is the perfect complement to our largely hydro system. New Zealand has some of the best wind conditions in the world, which means it is a cheaper energy source here than most places.

"The National Party's complaints about the RMA process topping Aqua are hypocritical. They supported all the amendments we proposed at the Select Committee to ensure Aqua had to follow the normal RMA process," said Ms Fitzsimons.


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