Date: 16 February 2009
The Department of Conservation is totally rejecting claims that “DOC’s silence was bought” over Meridian Energy’s Project Hayes windfarm proposal.
The Director General of Conservation, Al Morrison says suggestions DOC accepted money in a “secret deal” to remain quiet over the windfarm proposal is totally inaccurate.
“It is no secret that we have negotiated directly with Meridian Energy to resolve local conservation issues - we publically released the details of the agreement in July 2007.”
In 2006 the Government itself decided to make a submission in support of the Project Hayes proposal in the view of the national interest in renewable energy.
Al Morrison says this whole-of-Government approach also left DOC with the ability to address any local conservation issues it still had.
Al Morrision says DOC did have local concerns about the impact of the proposal on water quality, some bird and plant species and access to neighbouring conservation land.
He says DOC made submissions to local authorities on these issues almost three years ago and also entered into direct negotiations Meridian to resolve them.
“DOC, like any neighbour does, often enters into negotiations with developers to ensure localised impacts on birds or plants can be addressed. If we can get compensation to help settle these issues – we will.”
He says in this case an agreement was reached which resulted in $175 000 dollars being set aside to improve public access to nearby conservation land and for a series of plant and birdlife issues to be addressed. Meridian was also required to deal with DOC’s concerns over impacts of the scheme on water quality and native fishes.
Al Morrison says clauses were specifically entered into the agreements to ensure the details could be publically released once signed and they have already been fully tabled, including the amount agreed, before the Environment Court.
Rory Newsam, DOC Communications Advice Manager:
+64 27 295 3809 or +64 4 471 3104