Consents to allow the on-going operation of the Tongariro Power Development by Genesis have been granted for 35 years after a lengthy hearing by a Committee of Commissioners.
The development uses water from rivers and streams flowing from the mountains to generate electricity, and involves two water collection systems. Genesis had applied for 58 consents, 27 of them relating to activities in Environment Waikato’s Region and 31 in the Manawatu Wanganui Region. A total of 173 submissions were received, 156 of them opposing the applications.
Key issues raised in the submissions included the effect of the development on the cultural and spiritual values of tangata whenua, the need for a minimum flow in the Moawhango River and flushing flow releases from the dam, taking of water from the main stem of the Whanganui River and the need for minimum residual flows below the Mangatepopo and Whanganui River intake structures.
Submitters were also concerned about Lake Otamangakau operating levels, effects on Blue Duck habitat, and conflicts between minimum flows in the Tongariro River for electricity generation, fisheries and recreation.
There were also concerns about sediment regimes, effects on aquatic ecology, effects of ‘foreign water’ on Lake Taupo nutrient levels and Waikato River flooding and erosion and the effects of the development on the environment’s natural character.
In making its decision, the Committee said the on-going operation of the development represented “a sustainable use of natural and physical resources”, and conditions could be included that satisfied the requirements of the various statutory planning documents of both councils. This would result in adequate mitigation of the actual and potential adverse environmental effects.
A consent duration of 35 years was appropriate for all consents, but given the uncertainty of the actual outcome of mitigation measures, a five year review period was appropriate, and a comprehensive monitoring and reporting programme was required to ensure conditions were adhered to, effects mitigated and information gathered.
The Hearing Committee was headed by former Speaker of the House Sir Peter Tapsell, with members former Hamilton City Council CEO Bob Eyeington, University of Canterbury Dean of Engineering Dr Alex Sutherland, resource management consultant Trish Fordyce and soil conservation consultant Ron Sutherland.
Applicants have 15 working days to lodge any appeals with the Environment Court.