September 26, 2008

Split Over Lake Matiri Hydro Plan

By KIDSON, Sally

A Motueka-based company's application to build a hydroelectric scheme on Lake Matiri near Murchison has attracted 255 submissions, most of which support the scheme, although kayakers and environmentalists remain critical of the proposal.

New Zealand Energy Ltd has applied to the Tasman District Council to build a 4.6kw power scheme at the lake, which is on conservation land at the southern entrance to Kahurangi National Park.

The scheme would generate enough electricity to supply Murchison.

Submissions on the company's resource consent application closed last month, and the council is seeking further information before setting a hearing date.

More than 200 submissions, many of which were copies of the same photocopied form, supported the scheme.

The scheme would see a weir - built at one of the lake's outlets - divert up to 6.3 cubic metres of water a second into a 2.2km pipe to a powerhouse, from where it would be returned to the river.

David and Nicola Inch are listed as directors of New Zealand Energy on the Companies' Office website. Mrs Inch is the daughter of Talley's Fisheries boss Peter Talley. Mr Talley, James Ryder and Nelson lawyer John Fitchett are listed as shareholders of the company, which owns several small-scale hydro schemes.

Some late submitters are angry the Tasman District Council did not notify the consent nationally.

The Whitewater Canoe Club is one of two submitters waiting to hear if their late submission will be accepted.

Club spokesman Graeme Wilson said the majority of kayakers who travelled to the Buller catchment would not have seen notices in the Nelson Mail.

He said the Matiri was an important kayaking river and the proposed scheme could potentially adversely affect kayaking on the river.

John Rice, of Christchurch, was also unhappy with the submission process and has laid a complaint with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

But council resource consents manager Rob Lieffering said the notification was handled properly.

Those who supported the scheme said they were concerned at the prospect of both energy shortages and global warming, and believed the country needed to pursue developments based on self-renewing and non-polluting sources.

In a submission, Network Tasman chief executive Wayne Mackey said the scheme would prevent and assist in avoiding power shortages in the future.

The New Zealand Recreational Canoe Association and Mick Hopkinson, of Murchison's New Zealand Kayak School, opposed the scheme.

Mr Hopkinson said many people already thought Lake Matiri was in the national park and protected.

He said that in future years, Murchison would be the southern gateway to Kahurangi National Park, and the scheme would blight the entrance to the park, causing a considerable loss of amenity.

Fish and Game, which was a major opponent of a scheme proposed for the Gowan River by Michael Talley, said it neither supported nor opposed the Matiri scheme but had concerns, including downstream flow fluctuations.

Parts of the proposed scheme fall on public conservation land, and New Zealand Energy has applied to the Conservation Minister for a concession to use the land.

The Department of Conservation has lodged a submission saying the department opposes the resource consent application on a number of grounds.

It said several features of the scheme had the potential to affect the natural characteristics of Lake Matiri and the Matiri River area. Lake Matiri had important long- finned eel and freshwater mussel populations. Both species were threatened.


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