Port buys Taranaki power station

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 08:38 05/12/2012

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The power station is coming down but New Plymouth's landmark chimney is staying up.

Port Taranaki and Methanex have jointly paid $24 million to buy New Plymouth's decommissioned power station off Contact Energy.

The Taranaki Regional Council owned port will take the lion's share of the site, paying $15.5m for 15 hectares of land directly adjoining its current operations and up to Centennial Dr.

Methanex has agreed to buy a smaller area around its methanol tanks for $8.5m.

Port Taranaki chief executive Roy Weaver said most of the power station buildings would be demolished but the 198 metre chimney would remain.

"At least in the interim. It's a got a 50-year life span in front of it. Who knows if there will be a use for it that we don't know about in the next 50 years," he said.

The main turbine hall is also likely to remain if the port can find a customer who requires indoor storage facilities.

Port Taranaki is currently the third busiest export port in the country behind Tauranga and Lyttleton, and Mr Weaver said the purchase of the land would enable the port to continue to grow its bulk dry goods and log exports.

This would give the port the potential to become the No 2 export operation he said.

"The port has always struggled for land. We have shifted over 50 buildings from the main port area, including our operations building, to make better use of the land we had.

"We have changed over the years from being mainly an oil and gas hub that received all its cargo through pipelines under the ground to now dealing with more dry goods and logs which need room above ground," Mr Weaver said.

The $15.5m price tag is well above the $3.875m land valuation for the full 21.5h site in 2010 and the port will have to pay to clear it of buildings. Mr Weaver said it was still five to six times cheaper than reclaiming land.

Contact's chief executive Dennis Barnes said it had reserved the right to repurchase part of the site to develop a power station or gas infrastructure to allow the import and export of gas.

"It's just preserving those options.

"We are not doing any work today to do anything about that. It's not like we are going to sell the land and reappear within a year and say we're having some back."

Mr Barnes would not say how long the right for repurchase extended other than it was for "decades".

Methanex managing director Harvey Weake said the purchase enabled them to meet their continued logistics needs at the port.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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