Sir Alan Mark
Contact Energy has ruled out giving more than 100ha of
land along the Clutha River to the Department of Conservation.
A group of 41 Otago citizens led by Emeritus Prof Sir Alan
Mark sent an open letter to Contact's board on Friday asking
it to consider ''gifting'' the land to Doc.
The government-funded Nature Heritage Fund is negotiating to
buy the land on Doc's behalf in a bid to preserve rare and
endangered plant life.
Contact manager corporate communications Shaun Jones told the
Otago Daily Times in an email yesterday ''various bits
of land'' were part of the negotiation but ''this land is not
Sir Alan described Contact's response as ''extremely
His open letter to Contact board chairman Grant King
suggested by gifting the land ''or at least assisting the
Government and the community to purchase these areas of land
on favourable terms, [Contact] will earn widespread community
Doc Wanaka conservation services manager Chris Sydney said
yesterday the department was interested in acquiring ''about
eight different sites'' on various titles.
''Some of them are just narrow little strips ... some of them
are big large chunks.''
Mr Sydney said Doc's primary interest was in protecting the
botanical values of the pieces of land.
''All those sites have been inspected by specialists who have
identified [rare and endangered] plants.''
Mr Sydney said negotiations with Contact were being carried
out by the NHF and he was not party to them.
Although ruling out gifting land to Doc, Mr Jones said
Contact had identified a 2.2ha block of land it ''may be
willing to gift'' to the Upper Clutha community.
Mr Jones said ''this possible gift of land'' was located on
either side of the Luggate end of the Red Bridge.
''If gifted, it will be up to the community to decide how to
River conservationist Lewis Verduyn-Cassels said yesterday
the land being offered was part of where he envisaged a
''community river park''.
He described the Contact offer as ''great'' but believed for
the park to proceed another 0.4ha of Contact land - where he
is living - also needed to be gifted to the community.
Mr Verduyn-Cassels said he was ''under the corporate gun''
trying to ensure the land ended up in community ownership
because tenders were due to close today.
Mr Verduyn-Cassels called for the tender process to be
delayed and Sir Alan agreed.
''It seems quite unreasonable to us to insist on a deadline
All the land in question was acquired by Contact Energy when
it was planning more hydro-electric dams on the Clutha River.
It withdrew its plans in 2012. The ODT obtained
information at that time showing the company owned 147
properties totalling 13,912.25ha in Otago - most of which was
along the Clutha.
Contact's trading, development and geothermal resources
project manager Neil Gillespie said earlier this month the
company had sold 10 of its 21 Upper Clutha properties and
negotiations to sell the remaining 11 were under way with
He confirmed yesterday the negotiation with NHF involved more
than 100ha of Contact land.