Taupo geothermal power station approved

Last updated 14:42 22/12/2010

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Environment Minister Nick Smith is hailing the speed at which Contact Energy gained approval for a geothermal power station near Taupo, although the company is not saying when it will start building the project.

A board of inquiry led by Judge Gordon Whiting approved Contact's application to build the $1 billion Tauhara II 250-megawatt geothermal power station.

Today Dr Smith said it was the first project processed under the national consenting process of the reformed Resource Management Act.

It was the first time in 20 years a major project was granted consent in eight months. The average time prior to the reforms had been two years, with some projects taking as long as eight years.

"Long delays in getting consents for such renewable energy projects over the past decade came at a high economic and environmental cost," Dr Smith said.

"It meant delays in regions securing new jobs and the growth in electricity demand having to be met from old thermal power stations. These consenting delays contributed to New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector more than doubling in the last decade."

Construction and development of the station would involve 350 jobs during the 33-month construction period and be a welcome economic boost to Taupo and the Central North Island.

Contact said the development would go ahead "when market conditions allow

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