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Wairau decision destroys braided river ecosystem

5 August 2008

Wairau decision will destroy braided river ecosystem

The Green Party is disappointed in the decision of Marlborough District Council to grant resource consents for Trust Power's hydro scheme on the iconic braided Wairau River.

"The hydro scheme will remove up to 60 percent of the river flow, pass it through six power stations over 50kms, before returning it. The river ecology of the 50km stretch will be fundamentally altered," Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"The Wairau is one of the few remaining intact braided river systems in New Zealand, and has a very high representation of endangered species, such as the black-fronted tern and black-billed gull as well as many native fish species.

"The Department of Conservation is currently compiling a list of Wetlands of National Importance, and the Wairau is likely to be ranked highly.

"All this will be lost for just 70MW of capacity. This energy could be saved by insulating homes, using low-flow shower heads and replacing old fridges.

"The Green Party's policy is to pursue efficiency and conservation measures as a first priority. New generation should be renewable, but large-scale hydro will often have unacceptable conservation impacts," Ms Fitzsimons says.

The Wairau hydro dams are opposed by the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, Forest and Bird, and the Green Party due to the impact on biodiversity and river values.

It is likely that an Environment Court challenge will be considered once the hearing commissioners' reports are scrutinised.

"It is hard to see how this project meets the requirement of the RMA act to 'safeguard the life-supporting capacity of water and ecosystems'," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"This is an example of a project which under the National Party's proposed fast-track of 'priority infrastructure projects' would be pushed through regardless of community and conservation concern".


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