Contact Energy's plans to build dams along the Clutha
River are "a slap in the face for the people of Otago", a
leading river environmentalist says.
Clutha Mata-Au River chairman Lewis Verduyn said Contact's
plans to build dams at Luggate, Queensberry, Beaumont and
Tuapeka Mouth were unacceptable and unsustainable.
"It's a price too high to pay. [Building dams] jeopardises
river communities and is a serious threat to one of the
Otago's most iconic natural features."
While there had been "plenty of indication" from Contact
about its intentions to proceed with dams on the Clutha, the
power company was underestimat-ing the opposition it would
face, he said.
"There is no way communities along the river will accept
The Clutha Mata-Au group, an environmental organisation
dedicated to preserving the ecology of the Clutha corridor,
has been working to establish a riverside trail from Lake
Wanaka to the river's mouth on the South Otago coast, near
He questioned the logic of Contact's plans, given the
"minefield of problematic issues" the electricity supply
industry was experiencing.
This included issues such as weather patterns creating low
water flows during winter, which in turn affected
elec-tricity generation and hydro-electric lake storage
Contact complained about New Zealand's ailing power
transmission grid network, which was incapable of storing
excess electricity generated in times of oversupply, yet it
was intent on increasing its generating capacity regardless,
Contact was forced to spill water from its Clyde and Roxburgh
dams in December, after a breakdown at the Tiwai Point
aluminium smelter caused an oversupply of electricity
generation, which the national grid could not store.
There was also the issue of "budget blowouts" when
establishing dams, Mr Verduyn said.
The original contract for construction of the Clyde dam was
$102.6 million, but the eventual total cost topped $2.8
Riverside communities have lived with the threat of dam
construction and development for too long, he said.
They had lost 2300ha of land, farms, orchards, hundreds of
jobs and livelihoods, and also tourism opportunities,
asso-ciated with potential marketable sites, such as Old
"Contact Energy owes the river communities for everything
we've already lost and now they want it all."