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RMA call-in on geothermal project results

13 September 2008 Media Statement
Embargoed until 10am

RMA call-in on geothermal project results in fast decision

Environment Minister Trevor Mallard today welcomed the Board of Inquiry’s final decision regarding Contact Energy Limited’s proposed Te Mihi geothermal power station near Taupo, and thanked the board for an effective and efficient process.

On 22 January this year, Trevor Mallard called in Contact’s applications for the Te Mihi proposal because of its national significance and appointed Environment Court judge Gordon Whiting to lead a Board of Inquiry. The call-in combined the local council’s consideration and a potential Environment Court appeal process into a single consideration by the board. Following a public submission process and a three-day hearing, the board made a final decision on the application in accordance with district and regional plans.

"I would like to congratulate Judge Whiting and his board on its timely and well-considered decision making. The board has demonstrated how well the Resource Management Act’s (RMA) call-in process can work," Trevor Mallard said.

"This is the first time since amendments to the RMA in 2005 that a Board of Inquiry has made a final decision on a called-in consent application, so it’s a significant milestone for the RMA.

"The time taken for this project to be approved completely puts paid to suggestions that the RMA can delay projects for years. It completely destroys National's argument that it needs to change the RMA, and cut the public out of the process in order to get infrastructure projects approved within its nine month deadline.

"As this decision demonstrates, changes to the RMA are not needed and projects can be approved within acceptable timeframes – with public input and consultation secured throughout the process. Unlike National, Labour believes public input must be protected regardless of the project that is proposed.

"Throughout the call-in process, the board adopted good practice approaches, including pre-hearing meetings to resolve outstanding issues, and pre-circulating evidence which would be taken as read at the hearing.

"The parties involved in the decision making process should also be commended for working to resolve the issues before a decision was made by the board," Trevor Mallard said.

The Board's decision is at http://www.mfe.govt.nz/rma/call-in-temihi/board-of-inquiry/index.html. Other background information follows.


Background information

The board’s decision can only be appealed to the High Court on points of law.

Since the 2005 changes to the Resource Management Act, there have been four call-ins announced by Environment Minister Trevor Mallard:

• Transpower’s North Island Grid Upgrade project (announced in August 2007; hearing underway).

• Unison Networks Limited’s proposed Ta Waka wind farm in Hawke’s Bay (announced in December 2007; submissions closed; Environment Court consideration expected to begin in December).

• Contact Energy’s Te Mihi geothermal power station (announced in January 2008; decision announced in September 2008).

• Contact Wind Limited and Contact Energy’s Hauauru ma Raki wind farm near Raglan (announced in August 2008).

For more information about ministerial interventions for proposals of national significance (such as call-ins) under the RMA go to Q and A at

http://www.mfe.govt.nz/rma/central/minister/national-significance.html

ends

Contact: Astrid Smeele (press secretary) 04 4719080 or 021 2279080. Email:astrid.smeele@parliament.govt.nz


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