Landowner resistance to powerlines

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 16:34 18/02/2014

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Five King Country landowners are holding out against Waipa Networks' plan for a $20 million backup powerline from Te Awamutu to Hangitiki.

Waipa Networks chief executive Ray Milner said he'd prefer not to compulsorily purchase their land for the 110-kilovolt route which he said was necessary to keep the lights on at all times for the Waipa District.

"We prefer not to use requiring authority," Milner told the Otorohanga District Council today.

"We have moved lines off people's properties through consultation.

"After more than 12 months negotiating we believe we have got the agreement of most landowners. Of 49 properties we believe we have got the agreement of 36, we call them green."

However, five were still opposed, four were just about there and Waipa Networks was negotiating with four more, he said.

"We never expected to get 100 per cent approval from landowners. We will do our best with negotiating with those landowners."

The network operator expected to designate the route in mid-April, which would then give it the power to compulsorily purchase any land required.

"We have ended up with a fairly straight line," Milner said.

The new powerline will start in the Waipa District near Fonterra's dairy factory in Te Awamutu and mostly follow the railway line south through the Otorohanga District before ending at the Hangitiki Intersection in the Waitomo District.

Milner said landowners would be compensated.

"All landowners will be treated in the same way. If someone negotiates a better deal then all landowners get the better deal.

"This is a $20m-plus project and we'd hate to spend $20m and not get security of supply."

The line was needed to provide an alternative power supply to the Waipa District in the event of an incident affecting the Karapiro to Te Awamutu line and to allow regular maintenance without the network operator having to turn out the lights.

Without it the district would be without power for eight or nine hours every few years when essential maintenance was done.

"Today it's a real problem because businesses operate seven days a week and we can never find a good time of the year that suits everybody," he said.

"The dairy community would like the middle of winter when the cows are dry, but that's not good for the elderly.

"Our solution has been to build a second line to Te Awamutu."

Waipa Networks had changed its proposed route after Kiokio residents, north of Otorohanga, had raised concerns shortly after he made the plans public in January last year, Milner said.

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Keeping the route secret then led to public outcry.

"We arrived at what we call a good win-win. In May we met here in town and had a public meeting which gave us further guidance."

Construction is expected to take a year and Milner said he hoped it would be finished by June 2016. The project is yet to be publicly notified.

Otorohanga Mayor Max Baxter praised Waipa Networks for the way it had conducted its consultation.

"The consultation process has been thorough. You can't please all the people all of the time," Baxter said.

- Fairfax Media

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