Community considers dam proposals

The Alexandra District Flood Action Society will meet next week to discuss whether it should get involved in consultation on future hydro developments on the Clutha River.

Asked for comment yesterday on talks beginning with affected communities, president Stan Randle, of Alexandra, said the society "could well be" involved in discussions.

The society was set up in 1992 to deal with issues resulting from the flooding of Alexandra and it was concerned with the district between the Roxburgh and Clyde dams.

Proposals for up to four hydro-electric dams on the Clutha River were a "Clutha catchment issue", but the society would gauge whether the dams were likely to have an impact on the Alexandra district.

"I imagine some of our members, as individuals, will almost certainly be involved in the discussions about how future dams will affect the district, but we have yet to meet to decide if the society itself will also be involved," Mr Randle said.

The Central Otago Environmental Society was waiting to learn details of the proposals, spokesman Richard Kohler said.

"It's very early days to be talking about it, but it's certainly something that will have an impact on our area so I imagine, as a society, we'll get involved," Dr Kohler said.

"Once Contact put their cards on the table, we'll take a closer look."

Roxburgh farmer and former Central Otago District councillor, John Rowley, said if a Beaumont dam went ahead, it would have a "very positive" effect on the Teviot valley.

"These proposals seem to me a great opportunity for the local community to win and the nation to win, with the power that will be generated," Mr Rowley said.

Millers Flat, Beaumont and Ettrick would benefit from the creation of a dam at Beaumont.

"People travelling from Dunedin will stop there instead of going through to Wanaka and Queenstown with their boats. It's closer to Dunedin.

"We have lots of sunshine hours and will be able to offer good opportunities for recreation," he said"We need growth and this will bring more people to the area."

His only concern was whether the water supply for Millers Flat might be affected.

The water table might be lowered, Mr Rowley said.

Alexandra resident and chief executive of the former Otago Council, Jolyon Manning, said he favoured hydro-powered and wind-powered generation of electricity.

"I think we need to cut a deal though to get a benefit from living so close to the source of power generation," Mr Manning said.

Central Otago residents were under pressure to use non-polluting fuels for heating, so electricity was favoured over log burners.

"Power prices go up in winter and we should negotiate some benefits for living so close to the source of power generation, like reduced power costs. That's not unreasonable."

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