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Mitigation Agreements – Designed To Be Flexible


Media release
For immediate distribution: Wednesday 19 November 2003

Mitigation Agreements – Designed To Be Flexible

Meridian Energy is reassuring residents and businesses potentially affected by Project Aqua that the formal Mitigation Agreements could still be changed by agreement even after being signed by the parties.

Project Aqua is a proposed hydro-electric scheme that would run along the south side of the lower Waitaki Valley. It would generate enough low-cost, renewable electricity to power the equivalent of about 375,000 households in an average year and about 250,000 households in a very dry year. A very dry year is a 1-in-20 year event.

Meridian Energy is currently providing Directly Affected Parties with formal Mitigation Agreements for consideration. These agreements set out the understanding between Meridian Energy and Directly Affected Parties about how the effects of Project Aqua will be addressed. Meridian Energy is committed to ensuring fair and reasonable agreements are negotiated to mitigate the anticipated adverse effects of Project Aqua. Mitigation Agreements also provide certainty over what mitigation measures would be provided should Project Aqua proceed.

Some people and groups have asked for clarification about the ability to change the formal agreements if new information comes to light throughout the process.

“ If there is new and relevant information, Meridian Energy will review the Mitigation Agreements and if necessary, make any appropriate changes,” says Meridian Energy spokesperson Alan Seay.

“Some Directly Affected Parties may choose not to sign until they feel they have all the information they require. For those that chose to sign, the agreement provides that if the effects are different than those anticipated at the time of signing the agreement, then Meridian Energy must renegotiate the mitigation package in good faith.”

“Once someone signs the formal Mitigation Agreement, then a legally binding agreement is in place but it still depends on all the consents and approvals being obtained for Project Aqua to proceed and Meridian Energy being satisfied that the scheme is technically and commercially viable,” says Mr Seay.

“Mitigation is a major focus for Meridian Energy and we want to get it right and provide certainty for Directly Affected Parties,” concluded Alan Seay.


Background

What is mitigation?
- The Resource Management Act requires a resource consent applicant (in this case, Meridian Energy) to avoid, remedy or mitigate as far as practicable any adverse effects resulting from its activities.
- Mitigation means to lessen or reduce any identifiable adverse effects.
- The proposed activities in this case are the construction and the operation of Project Aqua.

What are the possible effects?
- Most of the time for most of the Directly Affected Parties, the effects are expected to relate to one or the other of a combination of dust, noise, visual or vibration.
- If the project proceeds, there will also be community wide effects, which are still being assessed.

What is a Mitigation Agreement?
- Mitigation agreements set out the understanding between Meridian Energy and Directly Affected Parties about how the effects of Project Aqua will be addressed.
- Meridian Energy is committed to ensuring that thorough and reasonable mitigation agreements are negotiated with Directly Affected Parties to mitigate the anticipated adverse effects of Project Aqua. Mitigation agreements will provide certainty for Directly Affected Parties over what mitigation measures would be provided should Project Aqua proceed.
- The agreements will be subject to Meridian Energy obtaining all necessary approvals and authorisations to allow Project Aqua to proceed, and being satisfied that Project Aqua is technically and commercially viable.
- If Project Aqua does not go ahead for some reason, there will be no need to provide the mitigation.
- Mitigation agreements and payments to Directly Affected Parties are lawful and a commonly accepted practice.

What is Meridian Energy offering?
- There are aspects of the mitigation agreements that are similar for all Directly Affected Parties and aspects that differ depending on how individuals are impacted.
- Meridian Energy has spent considerable time and effort exploring all the mitigation options so that the most appropriate package can be developed for each Directly Affected Party.
- Meridian Energy is offering financial support to people to obtain professional advice and in recognition of the time and effort taken in negotiating, considering and agreeing to the mitigation agreement.
- Meridian Energy is also offering solatium payments, which are in summary, a form of financial recognition for the temporary inconvenience, loss of enjoyment, and the short–term impact on the marketability of identified property assets during the period of time that they will be directly affected by construction.
- These mitigation measures demonstrate the importance of mitigation to Meridian Energy.

What are some of the mitigation measures, apart from financial mitigation, that Meridian Energy is offering?
- Mitigation could include some or all of the following:
- Double glazing and air conditioning
- Constructing or upgrading existing boundary fences
- Clothes dryers
- Temporary relocation or property purchase
- Business loss that is not offset by Project Aqua
- Monitoring for vibration effects and remedying faults caused by construction
Internal and external property cleaning.

ENDS

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