The Department of Conservation is inviting public submissions on a proposed concession to allow parts of a hydroelectric scheme in the Lake Matiri Conservation Area and on adjoining public conservation land, near Murchison.
New Zealand Energy Limited (NZEL) has obtained resource consents from the Tasman District Council for the power scheme. It also requires DOC approval for parts of the scheme infrastructure on public conservation land, including three weirs at the lake outlets into the Matiri River, part of the penstock, and access track. The public has until Monday 31 January 2011 to make submissions on the proposed concession for the scheme.
Scheme infrastructure would also be installed on adjoining private land owned by NZEL.
DOC Nelson/Marlborough Community Relations Manager Jo Gould said the proposed concession contained conditions to manage the impacts of the scheme on conservation and recreation values and provide for improved public access to the area.
“We have formed a preliminary view that the proposed concession with the conditions it contains meets the requirements for allowing the hydroelectric scheme on public conservation land. But a final decision on whether to approve the concession and the conditions it might contain if approved will take into account matters raised through public submissions.
“The proposed concession reflects resource consent conditions related to impacts of the scheme on conservation land, including conditions agreed with NZEL by DOC as a submitter on the resource consent application. Additional conditions have been set in the concession by the department.
“The proposed conditions address the effects of the scheme on conservation land and reduce those effects to acceptable levels. Additional conditions provide for residual adverse effects to be compensated for, in the form of both environmental and public access compensation.
“The proposed conditions require measures by NZEL to improve public access to the area and through it into Kahurangi National Park. This includes track improvements and legally securing public use in perpetuity over a walking access track on the company’s land. Improvements to the access road and a carpark at the roadend by the West Branch Matiri River, together with a footbridge over the river, should make it easier for families to visit Lake Matiri.
“For safety reasons, during construction it might be necessary to temporarily restrict public access through the area but a condition stipulates that public use of the track is not to be obstructed for more than two hours at any one time.
“An important consideration for the department has been measures to minimise impacts on the freshwater values in the conservation area, including longfin and shortfin eels and koaro, a native fish that is one of the whitebait species.
“The proposed concession conditions include maintaining fish passage between the lake and river which is to be provided for in the design of the three weirs at the lake outlets. Fish screens would also be required on the penstock intake and tailrace to prevent eels and other fish getting caught in these.
“There is also a requirement for monitoring the effects of the scheme on aquatic ecology in the longer term.
“We have also taken into account the beneficial aspect of improved public access to the conservation area and adjoining national park which is required of NZEL through a resource consent condition. Securing legal public access through NZEL land to conservation land is also a positive gain.
“As part of the concession conditions, NZEL would be required to make payments of up to $85,000 in total to DOC, for the most part to offset residual impacts of the scheme.
“This includes $30,000 to enhance freshwater aquatic habitat in the Buller River catchment. Another $20,000 is for riparian planting along the Matiri River to enhance natural character and visual amenity and compensate for the loss of natural forest. Payment of $5000 is for signage and NZEL would contribute $30,000 towards the cost of a footbridge across the West Branch Matiri River if one is constructed.”
In addition, the company would fence part of its land to keep livestock off the Matiri River edges and provide aggregate to upgrade a section of the Lake Matiri Hut access track surface.