Decades-old plans for up to four
hydro-electric projects on the Clutha River are being dusted
off by Contact Energy, which plans to spend the rest of 2009
hearing what the public thinks about the prospects of dams
dotting the landscape throughout Central and South Otago.
While the power company yesterday stressed it was not
committing to building any dams on the river, its move to
formally revisit plans for hydro-electric projects at
Queensberry, Luggate, Beaumont and Tuapeka Mouth, and the
appointment of a project manager, suggests it is seriously
considering a major investment along the river.
Based on figures obtained by the Otago Daily Times,
all four projects have the combined potential to supply power
to nearly 400,000 households.
Their construction would inject hundreds of millions of
dollars into the Otago economy.
The plans, a new website and the first talks with communities
will be launched within the next 10 days, but most details
are being kept secret for now.
Detailed plans of all four projects, once mooted by Contact's
predecessor, ECNZ (Electricity Corporation of New Zealand),
will be posted on a website next month and the public will,
for the first time in more than 20 years, get a chance to
respond to the idea of major dams being constructed on the
Contact media spokesman Jonathan Hill and its Clyde-based
generation project manager, Neil Gillespie, said the company
did not have specific plans for hydro-generation projects on
Contact was using historic plans as a tool to gauge public
opinion about hydro development along the river.
"We've got various options we inherited [from ECNZ] and the
next step for us is to put that information into a public
place and invite the community to have a look at them and
tell us what they think about them," Mr Hill said.
Contact wanted to understand what people in the communities
that might be affected and in the wider Otago area viewed as
the impacts and benefits of any, or all, of the projects
"This is just a process for us just better trying to
understand what people think.