District remains opposed to dams

Jacqui DeanBeaumont residents are just as committed to stopping a dam flooding their township today as they were more than a decade ago, a meeting heard on Wednesday night.

Almost every resident of the small township turned out to the gathering called by the Beaumont Residents Group after reading Contact Energy was taking another look at three previously canned hydro-electric projects on the Clutha River.

The Tuapeka Mouth proposal, ditched in 1996, would, if it went ahead, flood the township and surrounding valley.

The meeting, which was closed to the media, appointed resident Neville Hills as its spokesman.

When con-tacted yesterday, Mr Hills said there was very little to say at this early stage but the group was confident it had even stronger support "this time round" if Contact pursued its plans.

Further meetings would be held but Mr Hills said residents were waiting to see what Contact's next move was.

Residents of land that could be flooded by three hydro-electric projects under review needed to take a cautious approach before reacting one way or the other, Otago MP Jacqui Dean warned yesterday.

Any plans by Contact Energy to revisit projects at Luggate, Queensberry and Tuapeka Mouth would need to be carefully scrutinised, she said in a statement.

"I do not believe that it is helpful to whip this issue up before all of the details are made available. Contact has emphasised that it was only investigating options at this stage and I think people need to bide their time."

The news that the power company was revisiting the three projects would come as a shock to people living in those areas, but a conservative approach was necessary.

"I think we need to be very cautious about these plans and what they might mean for the communities involved. Energy generation is important to NZ, but we have to ask at what cost."

Mrs Dean said affected communities along the Clutha River naturally reacted strongly to the review by Contact.

While people should not yet panic, she said their homes and lifestyles were at stake.

"I would hope Contact is up-front about its plans and that it carefully considers the impact of these projects on the communities involved.