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New regime for geothermal resources

Environment Waikato is proposing to change its policies to ensure consistency between various policies on geothermal resources.

A special Regional Council meeting this week resolved to make changes to align the Council’s Regional Policy Statement and Waikato Regional Plan and clarify its approach to emerging geothermal issues. The Waikato Region contains 80 percent of New Zealand’s geothermal resources.

The changes are open to public submissions until September 19.

Policy Group Manager Jeanette Black said the expansion and clarification of the Regional Policy Statement aimed to make the use of geothermal resources sustainable, and recognise the effects of their use on geothermal features, land use and surrounding activities. It would also give more guidance to territorial authorities on land uses which could affect geothermal surface features.

Three more development fields were also identified – Ngatamariki, Mangakino and Atiamuri. Two more feature types were also recognised - mud pools and springs hot enough to produce elemental sulphur.

New rules would be added to encourage the collection and sharing of information. It would be easier to re-inject taken geothermal fluid or use it in benign technology such as down-hole heat exchangers. It would also be easier to use geothermal energy for group heating and multiple uses, and the rules would make it harder to discharge fluid into the wider environment, such as rivers.

Jeanette Black said the policy sent a strong message to reduce the barriers to sound resource management in geothermal systems, using the resource in a sustainable way.

Cr Evan Penny said it was vital the changes were progressed.

“We need to foster re-injection for a number of important reasons, most especially to address the issue of the discharge of contaminated water to fresh water.”

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