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Brownlee’s foot in mouth over West Coast dam

Charles Chauvel
Energy Spokesperson

4 Novemer 2009
Media Statement
Brownlee’s foot in mouth over West Coast dam

Gerry Brownlee’s comments on the Meridian Energy-backed Mokihinui River hydro-generation application confirm that he is out of his depth in his portfolio, and that National does not understand how to plan for our country's future energy security, Labour's Energy spokesperson Charles Chauvel says.

At a Grey Power meeting in Nelson on Monday, Brownlee announced that Mohikinui - still in the consenting process - would not be proceeding, although he claimed that this was merely a 'personal view'. He went on to state a preference against more wind power because of its visual effects, and indicated a desire to see more geothermal development instead.

“First, Ministers of the Crown just don't get to express 'personal views' about projects within their portfolios. Gerry Brownlee will have been extensively briefed by officials on Mohikinui. Clearly he has been advised that there will be issues with its consenting. It makes a mockery of the process to disclose that sort of advice in the way he has, without notice to the parties and in an aside at a public meeting.

“Not keeping interested parties in the loop on major decisions is exceptionally poor process. It's sadly reminiscent of this government’s recent handling of the viewing rights for the rugby world cup, climate change and ACC.

“Secondly, Gerry Brownlee's comments show that he doesn't have a plan for New Zealand's long-term energy security. To achieve that security over the next 15 years while growing our advantage in renewable generation, we need a mix of fuel sources as we phase out the burning of gas. More geothermal is a vital part of this - but significant new geothermal plant is unlikely to be available immediately, which is why much more wind needs to continue to come on stream for the next few years.

“The mix and phasing are the key. Getting those wrong - as Gerry Brownlee seems determined to do - will result in NZ being hooked into on burning coal and imported gas to produce electricity while the rest of the world moves to more renewable energy sources.

“All this is set out clearly in the NZ Energy Strategy. Gerry Brownlee needs to read this document - it should have formed part of his most basic briefing on taking office. It would be a tragedy if we lost our renewable advantage - and our future energy independence - because of the Minister's uninformed prejudice against more wind energy”, Charles Chauvel said.


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