Clutha plans seen as 15-20 years away

Plans for more dams on the Clutha River are 15 to 20 years away from becoming a reality so should not be factored into the debate on whether a hydro-electricity dam on the Nevis River is needed, a special tribunal has been told.

The country's power needs in the future came under the spotlight as part of the hearing into the Water Conservation Order amendment, being held before a special tribunal in Cromwell.

If adopted, the amendment would ban any hydro-electricity schemes on the river, and Pioneer Generation, Contact Energy and TrustPower have all opposed the change.

Pioneer has considered plans for a scheme on the river that would generate a maximum of 45MW.

Tribunal member Carolyn Burns asked what impact Contact's plans for four dams on the Clutha River would have on power capacity. Contact is seeking feedback on plans for a 350MW dam near Tuapeka Mouth, and dams at Queensberry (160MW), Luggate (86MW) and Beaumont (185MW).

Counsel for Contact, Rosemary Dixon, said the projects were at an "incredibly early" stage.

"They've just been floated and it's at the very beginning - to see if the community would find any development on the Clutha as acceptable and to what level it would find it acceptable," Ms Dixon said.

It was far too early to include any of those schemes in a consideration of the power-generation capacity in the future.

It would probably be 15 to 20 years before any became a reality, she said.

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