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Wrong decision on Wairau hydro scheme

August 5, 2008 - Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Wrong decision on Wairau hydro scheme

Forest & Bird is disappointed at Marlborough District Council's failure to protect the Wairau River by allowing TrustPower to build a hydro power scheme.

The Wairau River is home to several threatened species, particularly the black-fronted tern, whose survival will be further jeopardised if the project goes ahead.

"TrustPower's plans to divert most of the river through 49 kilometres of canals would have a devastating impact," Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin says. The river's reduced flow would lead to small river channels and wetlands drying up, reducing food and habitat for birds. Low flows would increase the water temperature, which would kill some aquatic species.

The Wairau is one of the few remaining intact braided river systems in New Zealand. The many kilometres of habitat it provides for native birds and fish is nationally important.

The Resource Management Act requires that the life-supporting capacity of rivers is maintained, and this is the leading issue in the draft National environmental standard on ecological flows and water levels, which is open for public consultation.

TrustPower's suggestion that it would modify the scheme if birds were further harmed by it was far-fetched, Debs Martin says. "During the hearings earlier this year TrustPower's own experts could not give any examples where changes to protect birds had worked," she says. "Who's going to wind back an expensive hydro scheme when the proof comes in that it is causing real harm to an endangered species?"

Forest & Bird will work with other groups to take this case to the Environment Court.


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