Call for talks on Waitaha

David Parker.
David Parker.
The fight for the Waitaha power scheme fired up yesterday, with a visit by four MPs for talks with Westpower and calls for round-table talks.

A week after Environment Minister David Parker refused the run-of-river hydro scheme, National Party list MP Maureen Pugh met Westpower yesterday, along with National's energy and resources spokesman Jonathan Young and regional development spokesmen Chris Bishop and Andrew Falloon.

At the same time, Grey Mayor Tony Kokshoorn called for all parties to sit down together.

He is seeking the support of fellow mayors to get the ball moving, with just six weeks before the local body elections.

Mr Kokshoorn last night analysed West Coast power prices before issuing the call to arms. The most recent figures, to May, show the power price in Greymouth was 34c a kilowatt, and 38.06c in Buller.

Although not the highest (Kerikeri was 42.6c), West Coast prices are among the steepest in the country. By comparison, Dunedin pays 25c and Christchurch 28.9c.

After Balclutha, West Coast prices are the highest in the South Island.

Mr Kokshoorn wants to get Transpower, government officials, Westpower, Trustpower, the Electricity Authority and Development West Coast around the table with local leaders.

''Once and for all, we need to find out why we are paying 20% more than Christchurch,'' he said.

Analysis showed Westpower prices for the lines were comparable, but the difference was the separate energy component.

''We are told that there is leakage as the power comes across the mountains.''

If the West Coast generated all its own electricity, the energy prices should fall, he said.

He did not favour either the Waitaha or Trustpower's mothballed Arnold River scheme, as both had merit. However, he said, there was an opportunity for Westpower or Development West Coast ''or both'' to look at the Arnold scheme, which already had consent.

''It needs clear heads rather than bickering and scoring political points. There's got to be a solution,'' he said.

Greg Topp, deputy chairman of the West Coast Electric Power Trust, which looks after the Westpower shares, said the Waitaha scheme would have brought down prices.

''It would have assisted us in becoming self-sufficient.''

Mr Topp, of Reefton, said the decision was disappointing but he hoped that, in the end, sense would prevail.

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