Introduction

DOC said today it has reached agreement with TrustPower on proposed amended resource consent conditions that address the department’s concerns about the company’s proposed Wairau River hydro-electricity scheme.

Date:  03 September 2009

The Department of Conservation said today it has reached agreement with TrustPower on proposed amended resource consent conditions that address the department’s concerns about the company’s proposed Wairau River hydro-electricity scheme.

DOC Nelson/Marlborough Conservator Neil Clifton said the department and TrustPower had this week jointly lodged a memorandum with the Environment Court containing proposed amendments to resource consent conditions.

“We are sending copies of those proposed amended resource consent conditions to other appeal parties in line with normal Environment Court appeal processes and it is publicly available information.

“We are satisfied the proposed amended conditions address the concerns that had been the principal focus of our Environment Court appeal. These were in relation to protecting bird habitat, primarily for endangered black-fronted terns but the conditions agreed will also benefit black-billed gull and other birds on the river.

“An important condition agreed by TrustPower has been to leave more water in the river during the critical October to January bird nesting season. The increased flow from October to the end of January is intended to provide 80 per cent habitat retention for mayflies, an important food source for black-fronted terns and other river birds, at the time they are raising chicks and require more invertebrate food.

“The conditions also provide for a comprehensive management plan to protect black-fronted terns that is to be funded and implemented by TrustPower. Development of that plan will be led by a panel comprising one TrustPower and one DOC bird expert and the plan is required to be approved by the Marlborough District Council.

“TrustPower will pay the costs of implementing the plan, up to $3 million inflation-adjusted over 35 years with an additional $1 million to be provided if required. These funds will be held by TrustPower. The plan will indicate how the money is to be spent, with up to $200,000 spent in any year. It will be TrustPower’s responsibility to ensure work identified in the plan is carried out and the expert panel will oversee and review the plan’s implementation.

“The department’s position from the outset has been we have not objected to there being a hydro-electricity scheme on the Wairau River. Our concern had been about the potential impacts of the proposed TrustPower scheme on black-fronted terns.

“Research on the river’s black-fronted terns has been carried out over the past four breeding seasons, increasingly in collaboration with experts engaged by TrustPower, and we now know more about threats to their long-term survival than when resource consent application was first made.

From this research we now know that the scheme’s flow regime is of less significance than had been thought for protecting black-fronted terns from predators. We have learned that the main predators of the terns are harrier hawks and not stoats and cats as had been believed.

“It was on the basis of this new information that we entered into discussions with TrustPower.

“Another matter influencing our taking this course of action was the Wairau/Awatere Resource Management Plan becoming operative in March this year. This plan provides for a 2:1 flow sharing regime for the Wairau River - two-thirds to be abstracted for hydro generation or irrigation purposes and one-third to be left in the river for natural values.

“We had initially had been seeking a 1:1 shared flow regime but with the plan becoming  operative we considered its 2:1 shared flow regime would be given considerable weight in the Environment Court appeal. The proposed conditions agreed with TrustPower contain a 2:1 flow sharing component over the October to January bird nesting season.

“Additional proposed conditions agreed with TrustPower include enhanced indigenous re-vegetation restoration, improved archaeological protocols, and performance standards for screening fish out of the scheme’s canal to ensure a sustainable population of dwarf galaxias fish is retained in the river as an additional food source for black-fronted tern.

“We had made no secret of the fact we were having discussions with TrustPower. It is standard practice, encouraged by the Environment Court, for appeal parties to talk in a bid to find workable solutions to resolve concerns prior to hearings taking place. Other appeal parties were told in November of our discussions with TrustPower and we advised Fish and Game in February that those discussions covered flow regime.  

“It will ultimately be for the Environment Court to decide whether or not to uphold resource consent for the scheme and if it is upheld what conditions might be attached to the consent. The court will decide this on evidence presented to it at the hearing and submissions from all appeal parties, including any submissions made by other parties on the amended resource consent conditions proposed by the department and TrustPower.”

DOC is not withdrawing its appeal but will not now be giving evidence at the hearing.

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Contact

Trish Grant, DOC Nelson/Marlborough communications advisor:

ph. +64 3 546 3146 or +64 272 316 748.

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