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Published: 2003-06-16 00:00:00

Consents to construct a hydro electric power station on the upper Waipa River have been approved by Environment Waikato and Waitomo District Council.

The Joint Committee has declined part of the scheme which included a storage dam and reservoir.

Hydro Energy Ltd had applied to establish a power generation scheme about 20 km south east of Te Kuiti using water from the upper Waipa. Small weirs would be installed in the Okahukura Stream and the Waipa River, with penstocks carrying water from the proposed storage reservoir down the gorge to the station.

The application attracted 16 submissions to Waitomo District Council and 27 to Environment Waikato from residents, Fish and Game New Zealand, Hamilton Anglers Club, Department of Conservation, Maori groups, Royal Forest and Bird and other groups.

The applicant said the proposal would be an efficient use of a small resource to produce a significant power output, while having only a small effect on the environment. There was unlikely to be any adverse temperature or water quality effects and the biology of the upper Waipa was already limited by poor water quality, he said.

Several submitters supported the proposals, with some cautious in their support and seeking conditions to mitigate adverse effects. Maori groups were concerned about poor consultation over spiritual and cultural sites and that the proposal would compromise their Waitangi Tribunal claims.

Submitters were concerned about lack of information, late changes, an absence of community benefits and effects on ecological values such as recreation, fishery and wilderness values, downstream property values and effects from flow fluctuations. The proposal could affect land stability, and submitters asked for conditions to protect anglers, ensure a fish pass was incorporated and a review of monitoring records.

Environment Waikato’s representative said the application was not straight forward in that it involved taking a substantial portion of flow from rivers and streams for most of the time, involved potentially significant fluctuations in flow downstream and a careful consideration of all the issues was required. The proposal could affect fishery values.

Granting the consents, the Committee said it was not convinced that consents could be granted for the storage and associated “peaking” generation proposal under the Resource Management Act. The consent granted allowed a more restricted “run of river” generation option, which would promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.