East Coast hydro dam proposed
NZPA | Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Damming the Motu River to generate income for Maori and improve the East Coast's electricity supply is under consideration.
Opotiki District Council's coast community board has discussed lifting the 1984 conservation order preventing the river's use for electricity generation.
It also hosted a presentation by acting Horizon Energy chief executive Don Lewell on the Motu's generation potential at a July 21 power generation workshop.
Mr Lewell was invited to address the meeting by council engineering and services manager Jim Finlay.
Mr Finlay said the presentation grew out of an earlier meeting held to find ways to reduce the frequency of power outages, which plague coast electricity consumers.
Generating electricity from dams on the nearby Motu River was proposed as a possible solution.
This option was attractive because, through investment, Te Kaha-based iwi Te Whanau-a-Apanui was a potential beneficiary.
Coast community board chairman Haki McRoberts said the Raukokore River was another that offered generation potential.
Building hydro schemes on either river would be "horrifically" expensive, but would be sure to solve the coast's power problems and provide an income to Te Whanau-a-Apanui through electricity sales to the national grid.
He said power outages were a real problem for coast residents.
"We're just getting sick of it," he said.
He said harnessing the Motu's potential was an option that would be explored with coast-dwelling hapu and iwi. However, talks were at an early stage.
He acknowledged the river's status as a wilderness area but said damming it could generate additional boating- and fishing-related tourism benefits.
An assessment of Bay of Plenty hydro-electric possibilities, completed by consultants Sinclair Knight Mertz for Environment Bay of Plenty in 2007, said past studies indicated 290 megawatts (MW) of electricity generation would be possible from four dams on the Motu.
This could be augmented by diverting flow from the Takaputahi River to the Motu River.
Studies have also identified 45MW of capacity from three schemes on the Raukokore River.
At 9am yesterday, Transpower was transmitting 5800MW of electricity to cope with the country's demand for power.
The Motu's national water conservation order was granted under section 20D of the Water and Soil Conservation Act 1967.
Orders made since 1991 to other rivers have been granted under section 214 of the Resource Management Act 1991.
The order requires that the river should be preserved in its natural state and instructs that no right shall be granted to dam for hydro-electric purposes.
Mr Lewell said Horizon Energy, which owns the Eastern Bay's power lines, would like to be involved in any hydro-electric development of the Motu River.
Damming it and transmitting electricity generated to the national grid would "cost billions", but he could see the financial benefit that might accrue to Maori and the improved security of supply to coast electricity consumers.
Another river under threat! MOTU RIVER
East Coast hydro dam proposed