Four appeals received against tunnel scheme

Four appeals have been received by the Environment Court in Christchurch opposing a decision to grant water for the proposed Meridian Energy Ltd $900 million power scheme on the lower Waitaki River.

By the 5pm deadline yesterday, appeals had been received from Ngai Tahu, Ngai Tahu Fishers People Inc, the Lower Waitaki River Management Society and Black Point farmer Garth Dovey.

An appeal had been expected from the Waitaki Protection Trust, but had not been received by yesterday's deadline.

However, the deadline could vary depending on when a person physically received the decision of Environment Canterbury (ECan) to grant Meridian Energy Ltd four resource consents needed for the north bank tunnel concept power scheme. They have 15 working days after receiving the decision to lodge any appeal with the court.

ECan's decision was dated December 19, but the 15 working-day period did not start until January 12 because of a provision in the Resource Management Act which sets down a "dead period" over Christmas-New Year.

Two other organisations opposed to the scheme - Waitaki First and the Central South Island Fish and Game Council - are not appealing. However, the fish and game council will apply to be an interested party at the court hearing.

Waitaki First originally said it would appeal, but earlier this week announced it would not but instead co-operate and share resources with the Waitaki Protection Trust.

Meridian wants to build the scheme between the Waitaki dam and Stonewall, west of Ikawai. At the end of last year, it was granted four water-only resource consents by ECan to take, divert, use and discharge water for the scheme.

The Lower Waitaki River Management Society has appealed the granting of the consents for five reasons, including contravening the Waitaki catchment water allocation regional plan.

The society said the lower Waitaki River was of national and international significance, a much-visited attraction and a defining feature for the district.

"The importance of it at its present flow regime capacity to the nation and future generations has not been adequately taken into account in the decision," it said.

The society has asked the court to decline the consents which ECan granted.

Once the issues of the water-only consents has been dealt with, Meridian will still need land use consents from the Waimate District Council to build and operate the scheme.

Tunnel scheme

• Interim decision by Environment Canterbury (ECan) on December 1 granted four water-only resource consents to Meridian to divert, take, use and discharge water for a new power scheme on the lower Waitaki River. A final decision on December 19 confirmed the granting of consents with modified conditions.

• Environment Court appeals were to be lodged by January 30.

• The $900 million north bank tunnel concept scheme is to take up to 260cumecs of water from Lake Waitaki into a 34km tunnel, with a powerhouse generating between 1100 and 1400GWh a year.

• ECan commissioners: Former Environment Court judge Prof Peter Skelton (Christchurch), environmental consultant Mike Bowden (Kaiapoi) and freshwater scientist and ecologist Greg Ryder (Dunedin).


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