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Hydro power scheme approved on West Coast

The Department of Conservation (DOC), has approved a small scale “run of river” hydro power scheme on public conservation land near Whataroa in South Westland. The power plant will generate 1.89 MW.

DOC’s West Coast Operations Director Mark Davies who made the decision, says the scheme can be constructed with minimal long term effects on the environment.

The scheme is a “run of river” hydro scheme, which means there will be no dam constructed. Water will be collected via a weir and diverted into a penstock/pipeline which would take the water down to a powerhouse. The water will be returned to the river downstream of the powerhouse in its entirety.

“Once construction of the scheme is completed and regeneration has occurred the visual and landscape effects are expected to be very low,” Mark Davies says

“This scheme does not have significant effects on the site’s natural character, intrinsic and wilderness values, and there are few recreationists in the area.

“There is potential for some loss of habitat for long-tailed bats and some bird and lizard species, however the impact has been assessed as minimal.”

As part of the decision-making process, DOC is imposing robust conditions during the construction of the scheme to ensure that any effects on vegetation or wildlife are minimised.

This includes requiring that a liaison officer be employed to oversee the construction and compliance with concession conditions, and the construction footprint being kept as small as possible. All trees greater than 30cm diameter at breast height must be assessed and approved by a department ecologist prior to removal.

The power scheme has been approved after a process which included public consultation and subsequent consideration of issues raised. The area the scheme is to be constructed in comprises three land statuses - Stewardship Land, Scenic Reserve and Marginal Strip.

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