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IMPACTS OF Dobson hydro scheme UNDER-STATED

IMPACTS OF Dobson hydro scheme UNDER-STATED

Advocates for Trustpower's Dobson hydro scheme are grossly under-stating its impacts, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

"The proposed 500 ha hydro lake would inundate three valleys covering 250 ha within the Card Creek Ecological Area as well as reducing the Arnold River's flow to one third of current levels. This would affecting the enjoyment of canoeists and kayakers as well as river's ability to support healthy fish and invertebrate populations," Forest and Bird spokesperson, Eugenie Sage said. "The Card Creek ecological area is one of the few remaining areas in the Grey ecological district with valley floor podocarp forest. It includes rimu, and an unusually high proportion of kahikatea and matai. Much other valley floor forest in the district has been cleared for farming, forestry and other development and little kahikatea forest remains anywhere in New Zealand.

"Fraser Creek which is part of the area to be flooded includes mature podocarp forest and regenerating kahikatea," she said.

"The West Coast is a stronghold for native fish such as giant kokopu, short-jawed kokopu and banded kokopu which have disappeared from much of New Zealand because of habitat loss.

"Habitat for two threatened native fish species, the giant and short jawed kokopu would be destroyed by the flooding and the scheme would create barriers for species such as long finned eels and kokopu which need to migrate to sea to breed."

"Conservation Minister, Chris Carter deserves praise for implementing the law and not allowing the destruction of important lowland forest and a valued river system," Ms Sage said.

"Buller Electricity's proposed Ngakawau hydro scheme which involved flooding conservation land was rejected by former Conservation Minister, Denis Marshall on the same legal basis as the current Minister, Chris Carter has declined the Dobson scheme."

"The High Court's 1995 decision in the Ngakawau case made the Minister's decision on Dobson inevitable.

"The Dobson scheme is being promoted in part to provide electricity for energy hungry and environmentally destructive activities such as GRD Macraes' Reefton gold mine and the proposed Pike coal mine, both on conservation land. The Reefton mine is expected to require at least 1 MW of generating capacity. Solid Energy's coal mine and the Hokitika dairy factory expansion are other major users."

"New Zealand is one of the least energy efficient countries in the OECD and uses more energy per unit of GDP than many other countries.

"Significantly improving the efficiency of our energy use is a more sustainable option than hydro schemes such as the Dobson," she said.

Ends Note to media

The Card Creek Ecological Area totalling 2870 ha was gazetted in 1983 by National Forests Minister, Jonathan Elworthy. This area was gazetted as it had the highest wildlife rating in North Westland.

A major addition of 1835 ha was gazetted in 1987 by a National Government and former Conservation Minister, Nick Smith.

A second addition of 676 ha was added in 2001 by the Labour/Alliance Government and Conservation Minister Sandra Lee.

The area to be flooded covers 214 ha of the original gazettal area and 180 ha of the 2001 addition.

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