Works Act for power line a last resort

By Sandy Myhre

4 comments
Ray Robinson, who manages Top Energy's geothermal plant at Ngawha, graphically explains power generation. The company's single carrying line from Kerikeri to Kaitaia is due for an upgrade. Photo / Sandy Myhre
Ray Robinson, who manages Top Energy's geothermal plant at Ngawha, graphically explains power generation. The company's single carrying line from Kerikeri to Kaitaia is due for an upgrade. Photo / Sandy Myhre

Far North company Top Energy has asked the Government to compulsorily acquire land under the Public Works Act from up to nine landowners who have not negotiated easement rights across their properties for a new power line between Kerikeri and Kaitaia.

Electricity line supply company and geothermal power producer Top Energy has negotiated easement rights with around 80 property owners in the Far North to allow work to start on a new power line between Kerikeri and Kaitaia.

However, nine other property owners have refused to grant permission to allow work to commence, forcing Top Energy to ask the Government to step in and acquire the land under the Public Works Act.

Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw said this was a last resort option and even after three years of discussion the company is still willing to negotiate with the owners. The existing line is 60 years old and once a year the company turns off power to Kaitaia and eastern coastal areas for a day to carry out maintenance.

Moreover, an estimated 700 people who have moved to Kerikeri and surrounds in the past two years places further stress on the line's transmission capability.

Mr Shaw said the line was badly in need of replacement and at risk in adverse weather.

"In the past two years on two occasions there were landslides that have almost taken the line out. If we lose one of the towers, Kaitaia would have no power for 10 days," he said.

Landowners who have agreed to the easements, including Maori interests, have been paid the highest of three independent valuations plus a premium for the land the line will cross. The company declined to say who the dissenting landowners were.

Mr Shaw said the company would have preferred to install a new transmission line over Crown land in the Far North but most of that was under Treaty of Waitangi claims. Top Energy has reached an agreement with Parahirahi C1 Trust, the kaitiaki of the geothermal field and hot pools at Ngawha, that will allow the company to boost supply outputs from the existing 25MW to 50MW of generation. The first of two new power stations is expected to be fully operational by 2020.

- The Crown has the power to acquire land under the Public Works Act 1981. The compulsory acquisition of land is usually only invoked when agreement cannot be reached with owners.

- Northern Advocate

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