Doc approves Whataroa scheme

The Department of Conservation has approved a small-scale hydro-electric power scheme in a creek just north of Whataroa.

The McCullochs Creek power plant will generate 1.89MW, and does not require a dam.

Doc West Coast operations director Mark Davies, who made the decision, said the scheme could be constructed with minimal long-term effects on the environment.

As it was run of river, no dam would constructed, Mr Davies said.

McCullochs Creek is at Te Taho. It flows into the Whataroa River.

Water for the hydro scheme would be collected via a weir and diverted into a penstock/pipeline which would take the water down to a powerhouse. The water would be returned to the river downstream of the powerhouse in its entirety.

‘‘Once construction of the scheme is completed and regeneration has occurred the visual and landscape effects are expected to be very low,’’ Mr Davies said.

‘‘This scheme does not have significant effects on the site's natural character, intrinsic and wilderness values, and there are few recreationalists in the area.’’

There was potential for some loss of habitat for long-tailed bats and some bird and lizard species, but the impact had been assessed as minimal.

As part of the decision-making process, Doc has imposed robust conditions during the construction of the scheme to ensure that any effects on vegetation or wildlife are minimised. This includes requiring a liaison officer to oversee the construction and compliance with concession conditions, and the construction footprint being kept as small as possible.

All trees greater than 30cm diameter at breast height must be assessed and approved by a department ecologist before removal.

The area the scheme is to be constructed in comprises three land statuses — stewardship land, scenic reserve and marginal strip.

Forest and Bird initially opposed the scheme, wanting independent analysis. It went to a hearing in late 2018 in Hokitika. 

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