Clutha River communities in Central and South Otago have
reacted strongly to suggestions Contact Energy might dust off
previously shelved plans to build more dams on the river.
Communities contacted by the Otago Daily Times yesterday were
gearing up to oppose hydro-electricity dams proposed for
Luggate, Queensberry and Beaumont.
Contact has emphasised it was only investigating options.
The Beaumont Residents Group has organised a meeting next
Wednesday night, exclusively for the community's 100
residents, to decide how to respond to the prospect of the
area being flooded.
The Luggate Residents Association will discuss the issue at a
meeting on August 28.
Margaret Healy, co-ordinator for the Beaumont group, said the
meeting was needed because "the dam has reared its ugly head
Whether that meant a full-blown community response was up to
In the mid-1990s, a petition against the proposed dam was
signed by 26,000 people.
Mrs Healy was comforted by comments in yesterday's Otago
Daily Times by Energy Minister David Parker that the
Government did not want to see more Clutha hydro-electricity
projects, but said she realised that might not be enough to
The proposed dams had the potential to become an election
issue, she said.
Beaumont resident Maureen Wood believed the community would
put up an even stronger fight against a dam than previously.
Mrs Wood, who with husband Bob has lived in the area for 50
years, said talk of the dam being revisited had strengthened
the resolve of those living in the area.
Luggate Residents Association spokesman Geoff Taylor
predicted the general feeling of some residents would be a
"totally negative response" to the "speculative" issue of a
Luggate dam, but others would back the proposal.
Wanaka Community Board deputy chairman and Luggate resident
association representative Ken Copeland said he did not
support dams on the upper stretches of the Clutha River -
especially given Contact's recent management of water levels
at Lake Hawea: "I've got no confidence in them.
They have drawn down as much water as possible from Lake
Hawea and keep dams at almost empty levels.
They don't try to conserve water in a dam for when power is
needed most in winter," he said.
Clutha Matau-Au River Parkway chairman Lewis Verduyn said
there was no justification for even considering damming the
upper reaches of the river.
The consequences of hydro-electric dam plans for affected
communities was "a price too high to pay".
There was a depth of bitter feeling among people against any
plans by Contact to revisit hydro-electric schemes, he said.
Mr Verduyn said flow levels in the upper Clutha River were
the lowest they had been in years and a hydro-electric dam at
either Luggate or Queensberry was unsustainable.