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Govt Confirms Special Treatment For Meridian, While Meridian Abuses Market, And Consumers Pay $80 Mn

Meridian Energy Ltd deliberately spilled water from Lake Manapouri and its smaller hydro-lakes to drive up electricity prices, costing consumers an additional $80 million, and requiring increased fossil fuel use, the Electricity Authority has found. Meanwhile, Minister Parker remains committed to exempting Meridian’s Manapouri Power Scheme from new Government freshwater policy, saying that the exception is about “meeting New Zealand’s climate change obligations”.

Electric Kiwi Chief Executive Luke Blincoe says that Meridian’s behaviour resulted in an additional 6,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, “So any claims around putting the environment first are absolute nonsense." Blincoe said.

When concerns about the environmental impacts of the Manapōuri Power Scheme were raised by Waiau residents, with Climate Change Minister James Shaw in October 2018, Shaw responded, “Your problem is that the Government likes Meridian’s dividend”.

The Government owns 51% of Meridian Energy Ltd. In 2019 Meridian paid $140 million in dividend to the Crown.

Paul Marshall, Co-Chair of the Waiau Rivercare Group, which advocates for the Waiau River, 95% of which is diverted to power the Manapouri Power Scheme, is concerned.

“If this is how Meridian behaves with current regulations in place, just imagine how they’ll act once Minister Parker exempts them from the Freshwater Policy Statement,” Marshall said.

“The exception has been dressed up as being about protecting sources of renewable energy – preventing “the lights going out!” – according to Martin Workman from Ministry for the Environment. But as Minister Shaw said, it’s actually all about the cash.

51% of $80M super profit, will go as dividend to the Government. Its money ordinary electricity consumers should never have had to pay. It shows we cannot trust Meridian to play by the rules. Their behaviour is unethical – they’ve blown their social license to operate.”

Nessa Legg, Chair of the Waiau River Liaison Committee, an Advisory Committee to Environment Southland, highlighted the downstream impacts of Meridian’s behaviour.

“Meridian’s management of the Manapōuri Power Scheme significantly contributed to extensive damage from flooding and erosion in the lower Waiau last year. So far, the repair cost is close to $600,000.”

The WRG is also concerned that during this November and December last year, that Meridian may have been non-compliant with the Operating Guidelines designed to protect Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri.

Marshall said, “Environment Southland need to investigate Meridian’s resource consent compliance and consider prosecuting Meridian under the RMA.”

The Waiau Rivercare Group has been lobbying against the Government’s exception for Meridian’s Manapouri Power Scheme from the Freshwater Policy Statement. The Group is running a petition to Parliament to remove the exception. The petition closes on 8 July 2020 and can be found here.

“The Waiau River is at heart of our community. It has suffered abuse at the hands of successive owners of the Manapōuri Power Scheme for 50 years. The Scheme diverts 95% of the Waiau’s waters through the power station and discharges to Doubtful Sound. That has had catastrophic environmental impacts on the lower Waiau, Te Wae Wae Bay and Doubtful Sound. Parker’s exception for big hydro removes the last statutory protection our River has left. The exception must be removed from the Freshwater Policy Statement. Help us restore the mana of our Awa.”

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