Kahotea Marae opposed to Nova gas-fired power plant over Matariki concerns

Kahotea Marae trustee Barney Manaia is opposed to the planned Nova Energy gas-fired power station near Otorohanga ...

Kahotea Marae trustee Barney Manaia is opposed to the planned Nova Energy gas-fired power station near Otorohanga because the plumes might disrupt Matariki celebrations.

A marae community is opposing plans to build a gas-fired power station in the King Country because it may hamper their ability to celebrate Matariki - the Maori New Year.

Kahotea Marae and trustee Barney Manaia said in a submission to Otorohanga District Council that the Nova Energy power plant may interfere with their cultural traditions and is unwelcome.

The marae is about 5 kilometres from the Nova site, but when the council assessed the Nova application and put it under limited notification status, the marae was left off the list of adversely affected parties.

Under the Resource Management Act, parties served with official notice can make submissions to the application.

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The marae trust board asked to make an oral submission to council and was given the all clear.

"Our marae is used for formal and social cultural events including Matariki, where we are encouraged to observe the stars of Matariki, plant crops and celebrate the Maori New Year. It would be remiss of us to say that a plume filling the sky and interfering with this tradition will not be tolerated," Manaia said.

However, Nova's experts say the discharge plume is "not likely to form a visible mist" and modelling shows plumes discharged from the stacks have the potential to be deflected downward.

"From our vantage point, we are not sure the buildings can be seen and due to no cultural assessment report or emission report available, believe the plume will be seen," Manaia said.

Council environmental services manager Andrew Loe said Manaia's submission was received as a part of the notification to the Nehenehenui Regional Management Committee and the Maniapoto Maori Trust Board.

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"Barney [Manaia], in his submission, claimed he was on the Nehenehenui RMC group," Loe said. 

"We'll accept his submission, it will go up to the hearing, it will be included in the planning report and it will stand on its merits."

In its application, Nova Energy said a cultural impact assessment was yet to be done by Nehenehenui. Consultation with iwi and hapu is ongoing and further engagement during implementation of the project is likely.

"It seemed more appropriate that we put the submission up to Nehenehenui. They have got the contacts. It's much better that way, that it feeds down from them," Loe said.

Green Party MP Gareth Hughes said limited notification of consent applications is a problem. 

"Limited notification really limits the involvement of anyone who really cares about an issue unless they live directly next door," Hughes said.

A Green Party petition with more than 3000 signatories failed to sway Environment Minister Nick Smith to call-in the Nova application - putting it in front of the Environment Court - prior to the Tuesday cut-off.

On Sunday, Smith said there was "no justification for calling in this Nova Energy power station", as its impacts are small and would not meet the legal test.

An Official Information Act request by the Greens to the offices of Smith, Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett and Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges showed no attempt by any minister to seek any formal advice on the power plant. 

Hughes said Smith's decision to not call-in the project was "disingenuous" and "political spin".

"He tried to dress it up in legalese, ignoring the crucial fact that there are provisions for the minister to be able to do it."

Kahotea Marae was been left in the dark, Manaia said. No serious consultation with local Maori has been done on the cultural, economic and environmental impacts of the project.

"We accept that we need energy to keep our homes and buildings operating, but believe not enough korero has gone into investigating indigenous ways of producing energy that protect Papatuanuku and Tangaroa from pollution to the waters, tributaries and fits in with the land.

"We believe such a huge project that will cost millions of dollars should have been a notified consent, as it will and has attracted huge public interest and concerns," Manaia said.

 - Stuff

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