N.Z. panels advance 17-MW Hawea Gates, 70.5-MW Wairau Valley

Two regional regulatory panels have granted approvals to New Zealand utilities proposing to build the 17-MW Hawea Gates and 70.5-MW Wairau Valley hydroelectric projects.

The Otago Regional Council granted resource consents to Contact Energy to build Hawea Gates, a project Contact was required to modify to negate the need for controversial dredging of the Hawea River. (HNN 9/12/06)

Originally proposed in April 2004, the Hawea Gates project involves construction of a small hydro plant at the company’s control gates of Lake Hawea in Central Otago. Contact Chief Executive David Baldwin said the project would make a “small but significant” contribution to renewable generation in the Otago Lakes region, where demand has increased more than 75 percent in the last 10 years.

The Otago council approval will allow Contact to begin construction in late 2008, after some additional design work. Construction is expected to take two years.

�We will continue to work closely alongside the local community as we now develop this project further, particularly on the appearance of the project,� Baldwin said.

In May, the Environment Court confirmed Otago’s 35-year extensions of Contact’s resource consents for the Hawea, Roxburgh, and Clyde hydro projects. In addition to utility- supported flood mitigation activities, Contact agreed to provide compensation to landowners between Roxburgh and Clyde dams if they sustained flood damage due to actions by Contact.

Trustpower wins interim consents for 70.5-MW Wairau Valley

Meanwhile, a panel of the Marlborough District Council issued an interim decision advancing the 70.5-MW Wairau Valley hydroelectric project. Utility Trustpower proposed the scheme of five power plants on a 46-kilometer canal running parallel to the Wairau River.

�We are satisfied that the effects of the scheme on the environment, when taken together, i.e., collectively, are also no more than minor,� the panel said June 22. �… As will be seen from our economic and social analysis, we are satisfied that the scheme will confer tangible benefits both locally and nationally.�

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said the interim decision begins a process in which further submissions may be made on the extent of conditions to be imposed on the Wairau Valley project’s resource consents.

Sowman said conditions will include requirements that any change in river flow: will be no more than would occur naturally; will have minimal effect on aquatic ecology; will not affect survival of black fronted terns and black billed gulls; and will not affect an irrigation scheme.

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