A Maori trust is appealing against plans to expand Ngawha power station.
Far North power company Top Energy was last month granted a raft of consents allowing it to build two more geothermal power plants near Ngawha Springs, east of Kaikohe, boosting the power station's total output from 25 to 75MW. That would be enough to turn the Far North into an exporter of electricity.
The Parahirahi C1 Trust, however, has since lodged an appeal in the Environment Court against the Northland Regional and Far North District council consents.
The trust is the kaitiaki (guardian) of the nearby Waiariki hot springs and manages a hot pool complex on trust-owned land and Crown land the Waitangi Tribunal has recommended be returned to Maori.
During the hearings in Kerikeri in August, trustee Amokura Kawharu said the expansion could threaten hot springs which had been used for their curative powers, cooking and heating since the 16th century. No natural resource had greater significance to Ngapuhi, she said.
If the consents were granted the trust wanted full membership of the peer review panel overseeing the project and a five-year gap between the expansion's two stages to allow monitoring of any effects on the springs. The trust also wanted "material cultural benefits" to balance the negative effects of exploiting the geothermal field, suggesting Top Energy pay for a $2.5 million upgrade of the Waiariki hot pools.
A panel of commissioners released their decision last month, allowing the expansion to go ahead but setting a number of conditions.
In a notice of appeal obtained by the Advocate, the Parahirahi C1 Trust said the decision addressed some but not all of its concerns.
The trust wanted five-year staging of the project instead of three years, and said the consent conditions did not provide for adequate protection and monitoring of the hot springs' temperature and chemical composition.
While the decision created a kaitiaki adviser role on the peer review panel, it was an observer position with no voting rights. There was also no requirement for Top Energy to cover the adviser's costs.
Nor did the decision require Top Energy to provide "material cultural benefits" such as upgrading the hot spring facilities.
Top Energy declined to comment.