The expansion of Top Energy's geothermal power generation at Ngawha has been given the go-ahead following the withdrawal of challenges to the Environment Court.
Chief executive Russell Shaw said concerns raised by the Parahirahi C1 Trust, the kaitiaki of the geothermal field and pools at Ngawha, had been addressed and a joint consent order filed with the Environment Court. There was no further opposition to the plans, and resource consents had been granted.
"It is a major step in securing a resilient and reliable power supply for the people of the Far North, as well as reinforcing the power supply in the North Island following the closure of the gas and coal plants in south Auckland and the Waikato," Mr Shaw said.
The trust objected when commissioners granted an extension of consents for Top Energy's existing 25MW operation, and approved new consents for a further 50MW of generation, to be built in two stages, in September last year.
Mr Shaw acknowledged the efforts of the trust to work with Top Energy to resolve concerns arising from the proposals, thereby avoiding a lengthy process in the Environment Court.
"We fully appreciate the cultural significance of the area, and are committed to working with the trust to ensure the sustainable management of the geothermic reservoir," he said.
Trust chairman Dr Te Tuhi Robust described the agreement with Top Energy as an excellent outcome that brought gains around technical issues within the consent.
"There is nothing within the agreement that sits at odds with the law or cultural integrity for us. We believe it reflects a willingness and commitment from Top Energy to work with our community and people," he said.
As part of the agreement Top Energy has undertaken not to cause or contribute to any adverse effects on the pools, which will require independent monitoring of fluids reinjected into the reservoir. A kaitiaki adviser will be appointed to an independent peer review panel, and the company will help fund the development of Nga Waiariki pools.
Mr Shaw said the first of the new 25MW power stations could be producing power by 2020, coinciding with the closure of the Genesis Energy coal generation plants at Huntly.