Maungatapu residents are fighting the proposed installation of giant power poles they say will spoil their harbour views.

A hearing to decide the future of Transpower's $7 million powerline relocation project began yesterday.

The national power grid operator wants to move a 3.3km portion of a 110kV transmission line to align with State Highway 29A between Maungatapu and Matapihi.

A mock up of how the 35m (left) and 45m (other side of bridge) tall poles will look from 1 Miriana St. Graphic/Isthmus
A mock up of how the 35m (left) and 45m (other side of bridge) tall poles will look from 1 Miriana St. Graphic/Isthmus

The line is one of two supplying power to Mount Maunganui.

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The move has been welcomed by some Maungatapu residents because it would mean the removal of power lines currently slung directly above about 24 homes.

Sixteen power poles would also go, including those set in people's yards, among sports fields at Te Ariki Park and on Māori land, as well as the tower in the estuary in Rangataua Bay.

Other residents, including custodians of Maungatapu Marae, support moving the lines away from houses but strongly oppose Transpower's replacement plan.

They say the proposed installation along the highway of 18 new poles - the largest two of which will be 35m and 45m high built either side of the estuary - and lines will blight vistas and drive down property values.

A mock up of how the 35m (left) and 45m (other side of bridge) tall poles will look from 1 Miriana St. Graphic / Isthmus
A mock up of how the 35m (left) and 45m (other side of bridge) tall poles will look from 1 Miriana St. Graphic / Isthmus

They want Transpower to underground the lines or attach them to a bridge - whether the existing Maungatapu Bridge or a new one.

Yesterday independent commissioners Greg Hill and Antoine Coffin began hearing evidence to decide whether the Bay of Plenty Regional and Tauranga City councils should approve Transpower's resource consent applications for the work.

Transpower presented its evidence, with opposition submitters scheduled to give theirs today.

Andrew Beatson, counsel for Transpower. Photo / John Borren
Andrew Beatson, counsel for Transpower. Photo / John Borren

Andrew Beatson, lawyer for Transpower, said undergrounding the lines could add $20m to the project cost, which would ultimately be borne by power consumers.

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Commissioners asked for more detail about costs for alternatives.

Beatson said the relocation project was prompted by an urgent need to do maintenance work on a pole at risk of coastal erosion and on the tower in the estuary.

It was also an opportunity to move the line, installed in the 1950s, off land owned by Ngāti He, which had long objected to its presence.

Beatson said lining the power and roading infrastructure up together would overall reduce its visual impact.

Greg Hill, one of the independent commissioners hearing Transpower's application. Photo / John Borren
Greg Hill, one of the independent commissioners hearing Transpower's application. Photo / John Borren

Commissioners heard from Transpower that the NZ Transport Agency did not support attaching the heavy cables to the Maungatapu Bridge - which already bore the other power cable supplying Mount Maunganui - and had no plans to build any new bridges in the short or medium term.

They also heard the Department of Conservation had reversed its opposition to the proposal, conditional on new conditions to protect the ecology of the area.

The hearing will continue today.


By the numbers

- 16 poles removed (including estuary tower)
- 18 new poles installed
- 11 new poles in road reserve, average height 19.5m
- 5 new poles in orchard land, average height 25.2m
- 2 new poles spanning estuary, 35m (Maungatapu) and 45m (Matapihi)
- 0.7m of conductor over estuary
- 9 poles replaced
- $7m estimated project cost.

Source: Transpower

Scale comparisons

- Statue of Liberty: 46m from foot to torch
- Christ the Redeemer: 39.6m including pedestal
- Netball court length: 30.5m
- 13-15 storey building: 45m