Council Links to Government on Marsden B Revealed
Auckland, 15 June, 2005: Greenpeace today renewed their ask for Marian Hobbs to call-in Marsden B coal-fired power station proposal (1), as new evidence released today revealed an appearance of Northland Regional Council (NRC) bias in dealing with the application.
Documents released under the Official Information Act show that Northland Regional Council wrote to the Minister of Energy suggesting that “central government make a submission on the application that clearly outlines the national context to power generation and the place of the Marsden B project.” (2) The documents continue saying that they are “concerned that unless a central government position is made which outlines the national context of power generation, then the Department of Conservation’s view will be perceived as representing the Government’s view.”
“By actively soliciting a specific submission which clearly was designed to support the application, Northland Regional Council has created the clear appearance of bias. We are outraged with the NRC behaviour and the public can no longer have confidence that it will decide this consent impartially,” said Greenpeace climate campaigner, Vanessa Atkinson.
Other government documents support the concerns. Four days after the request, MED officials stated that “preliminary discussions with the Minister [of Energy] indicate that he is keen for us to make a submission in support of the project.” On February 22, the day the Minister wrote saying she would not call in the application, a briefing of the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit (CCMAU) stated that “It is understood that the Ministry of Economic Development will be putting in a submission in favour of Marsden B.”
“This reeks of a stitch-up. Marsden B is of national significance in its environmental impacts, particularly on climate change and in terms of our international obligations under Kyoto and the Stockholm Convention,” said Atkinson
“With this new information that undermines the public’s faith in the local council, the Minister has no choice but to call-in the project. The only sensible course is to take it from the hands of the Council and to decide it nationally.”
Mighty River Power have sought resource consent to discharge a raft of persistent and toxic substances to air, water and land and Marsden B, including 17,000 tonnes of sulphur, 16 tonnes of lead, 14 tonnes of arsenic, and 400kg of mercury every year. It would annually release over 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas. If converted, Marsden B would be New Zealand's first major coal-fired power station in nearly 25 years.
“New Zealand urgently needs a sustainable energy strategy that gives national direction to the way we generate electricity by encouraging renewable technology such as wind and stopping polluting power sources such as coal,” concluded Atkinson.
Notes to Editors:
On 8 February, Greenpeace, Whangarei Heads Citizens Association and Urquharts Bay Association wrote to the Minister requesting that she call-in the proposal, a mechanisms where a project of national significance can be decided by central Government rather than local councils. Seven other community groups around the country also supported the request which the Minister declined on 22 February.
(1) Ministry of Economic Development briefing to the Minister of Energy, 17 February, 2005. The letter from Northland Regional Council referenced in this briefing was dated 4 February, 2005.