New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has approved a 1.89-MW run of river small hydro power scheme on public conservation land near Whataroa in South Westland.
DOC’s West Coast Operations Director Mark Davies, who made the decision, says the scheme can be constructed with minimal long-term effects on the environment. The DOC release did not name the project, nor provide the river on which it will be located or the name of the developer. However, the Otago Daily Times reported the plant is called McCullochs Creek and is on the creek of the same name, which flows into the Whataroa River.
No dam will be constructed. Instead, water will be collected via a weir and diverted into a penstock and from there to the powerhouse, before being returned to the river downstream.
“Once construction of the scheme is completed and regeneration has occurred the visual and landscape effects are expected to be very low,” Davies says. “This scheme does not have significant effects on the site’s natural character, intrinsic and wilderness values, and there are few recreationists in the area. There is potential for some loss of habitat for long-tailed bats and some bird and lizard species, however the impact has been assessed as minimal.”
As part of the decision-making process, DOC is imposing robust conditions during the construction of the scheme to ensure that any effects on vegetation or wildlife are minimized. This includes requiring that a liaison officer be employed to oversee the construction and compliance with concession conditions, and the construction footprint being kept as small as possible. All trees greater than 30 cm diameter at breast height must be assessed and approved by a department ecologist before removal.
The power scheme has been approved after a process that included public consultation and subsequent consideration of issues raised.