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Waitaki River Would Still Be Significant & Braided

Media Release
For immediate release: Monday, 24 November 2003

The Waitaki River Would Still Be One Of New Zealand’s Significant Braided Rivers Under Project Aqua

If Project Aqua goes ahead a closer eye would be kept on the Waitaki River, its environment, and its braided character.

In May, Meridian Energy lodged resource consents to build Project Aqua - a hydro-electric scheme in the lower Waitaki Valley – it would include a 60 kilometre canal with six hydro power stations.

“At the moment, uncontrolled growth of gorse, broom and willows threaten to choke the river, increase the flooding risk and diminish the braided river character,” says Alan Seay, spokesman for Meridian Energy.

“Part of the mitigation proposed with Project Aqua includes greater vegetation control to ensure the flood fairway and braided river character is maintained.”

The water in the upper Waitaki River is already used by eight Meridian Energy power stations. The company’s management of the river there has reduced the natural intensity and frequency of flooding and increased irrigation flow reliability.

Meridian Energy is currently working with a number of organisations to develop a River Management Strategy for Project Aqua. These organisations will later become part of the Lower Waitaki River Management Group, they include: Environment Canterbury; Department of Conservation; Land Information New Zealand and Fish and Game New Zealand.

The conditions set down by the Resource Management Act (1991) must be met for Project Aqua to go ahead.

“A good commercial outcome is not the only criteria to be satisfied, as environmental, social and cultural values must also be maintained and desirably enhanced,” says Alan Seay.

Meridian Energy has a good reputation in environmental management. The company already provides the Department of Conservation nearly $400,000 per year for Project River Recovery which keeps many of the braided rivers in the Mackenzie basin in pristine condition.

ENDS

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