Hearing ahead as submissions pour in opposing Westpower's Waitaha River power scheme

By Laura Mills

A large number of submissions opposed to the Waitaha River power scheme are from kayakers, and several are from Waitaha Valley residents or near neighbours. Photo / Wikimedia
A large number of submissions opposed to the Waitaha River power scheme are from kayakers, and several are from Waitaha Valley residents or near neighbours. Photo / Wikimedia

Submissions from all over New Zealand have poured in opposing Westpower's Waitaha River power scheme, filling thousands of pages and forcing a four-day hearing in Hokitika next week.

The Department of Conservation has approved in principal the application for a concession for a run-of-the-river scheme that does not involve damming the river.

A weir and diversion structure will be constructed at the upstream end of Morgan Gorge, at the head of the Waitaha Valley. A 2km access road, powerhouse and tunnel will also be built.

Initially DOC received 1680 submissions, but then found a further 2864 caught in its e-mail spam filters, as well as a petition with over 2000 names, some of them doubled up.

The hydro scheme was initially opposed by kayakers, but they were then bolstered by Forest and Bird when they declared their opposition.

DOC released most of the submissions today, but withheld their names. A number of these pointed out that Trustpower's expanded Arnold River power scheme near Dobson was already consented. Others claimed the demand for electricity was not there, while a number argued that a hydro scheme on stewardship land
was incompatible with the Conservation Act.

Most submitters opposed to the proposed Waitaha River hydro-electricity scheme are from New Zealand but a number are from Australia, and there is one from North America.   Photo / Supplied
Most submitters opposed to the proposed Waitaha River hydro-electricity scheme are from New Zealand but a number are from Australia, and there is one from North America. Photo / Supplied

A large number of submissions are from kayakers, and several are from Waitaha Valley residents or near neighbours.

Author Penelope Todd said she set her Watermark trilogy at the mouth of the Waitaha River and asked that it be left alone to its "beautiful, natural" way.

Most submitters are from New Zealand but a number are from Australia, and there is one from North America.

Waitaha Executive of Grandmothers Council, which gives its address as Auckland and has members from all over the world, cites lack of consultation with "all tangata whenua".

Engineers have submitted - one in support, one against. Groups opposed include the Council of Outdoor Recreation, Peninsula Tramping Club, tour company High Places, Federation of Freshwater Anglers, Whitewater Canoe Club, Tararua Tramping Club, Victoria University Canoe Club, and the Green Party.

Those in support include Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, who noted the river would not be dammed, and the economic benefits of the scheme to the West Coast. New Zealand Energy is also in support. The Ross Community Society backed the scheme, as did Unions West Coast and Westland Milk Products.

A South Westland resident in support of the hydro use pointed out that Ivory Lake and Scamper Torrent in the upper gorge, "are almost never visited".

The full submission went on the DOC website yesterday: www.doc.govt.nz/waitaha-hydro-concession.

- Greymouth Star

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