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Request For Judicial Review Of Pylons Decision

Request For Judicial Review Of Pylons Decision Filed with High Court

New Era Energy today announced that they have filed in Wellington a formal request for a High Court Judicial Review of the Electricity Commission’s July, 2007 decision to approve Transpower’s proposed 70 metre high 400kV pylon line through the Waikato.

The Electricity Commission decision was the first “yes” that Transpower needed to go ahead with construction of the line, while the second needed “yes” is from the environmental RMA Board of Inquiry hearing process due to start on March 25, 2008.

“We believe the Judicial Review will uncover the flawed processes and inappropriate external influences that led to the Electricity Commission approving Transpower’s horrendous 220/400 kV proposal for a 200km transmission line on 70 metre pylons into Auckland” said Bob McQueen, spokesman for New Era Energy. “There were four clear errors in law made by the Electricity Commission, including illegality, irrationality, pre-determination and bias, and mistake of fact. The decision that the Commission arrived at to approve the Transpower proposal was not one that a reasonable, unbiased person would come to if the law had been followed”.

An affidavit from former Chair of the Electricity Commission, Roy Hemmingway, was included with the documents filed in support of the request for a Judicial Review. The affidavit addresses the stringent legal processes required of the Commission in arriving at decisions on new transmission projects, and also describes the interaction he had with Government ministers in the months leading up to his sacking in late 2006.

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The papers filed with the request for Judicial Review, including Hemmingway’s affidavit, are available on the New Era Energy website at http://notowers.co.nz/jr

An outcome from the Judicial Review process will unlikely be available until mid 2008. It is unclear whether the Board of Inquiry process due to start in March would be deferred until the outcome of the Judicial Review is known.

There are many reasons for New Era Energy’s continued strong opposition to the line, one of which is a huge concern for security of supply for Auckland. The Transpower proposal will in fact reduce the security of electricity supply to Auckland by 18,000 times, by putting most transmission into one giant, highly vulnerable line, which if it fails, could cascade into taking out electricity supply to most of the upper North Island, much like the huge blackouts in the US in recent years.

Other more secure alternatives to the proposed line, which would have landowner support, and could be built much more quickly and cheaply than the billion dollar line proposed by Transpower, include reconductoring and duplexing the three existing supply lines to Auckland, using less obtrusive transmission technology such as HVDC or conventional sized 220kV lines, and encouraging more Auckland area generation.

“There is no panic to have this line approved and built, as Transpower have misled the public and the Government into believing” says McQueen. “The best and most recent estimates of Auckland demand growth, constructed by the Electricity Commission, but set aside by the majority of the Commissioners in an attempt to push the Transpower proposal through, show that this line energised at 400kV line would definitely not be needed in the next 20 years, and likely not ever, if upgrading of existing lines and some new generation were to take place soon.”

If the Judicial Review overturns the Electricity Commission decision, then it will be back to the drawing board for Transpower. It is unlikely the present proposal would be resubmitted to the Electricity Commission, as it would be sure to fail a properly applied Grid Investment Test. “We believe that the recent change in the CEO of Transpower, with Ralph Craven departing, may stimulate a change in the corporate culture of the organisation, away from confrontation and bullying, into a new era of collaboration, consultation, and cost-effective engineering design”, says McQueen. “There are better, and cheaper alternatives to the 400kV line that landowners can get in behind and support – we hope a change of attitude at Transpower may be the best ultimate outcome from this prolonged and costly process”.

Leading New Era Energy’s legal team on the Judicial Review process is top Auckland barrister Paul Cavanagh, QC.


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