Hydro scheme block continues
Obstructive landowners and cheap wind turbines appear to be the main reasons TrustPower has stalled plans to build a hydro-electric power scheme along the Wairau River.
TrustPower said in May it was not going ahead with South Island hydro development, including the Wairau scheme, because of stalled demand for electricity and rising construction costs.
Wairau Valley farmers John and Joan McLauchlan recorded a meeting at their home early last month with TrustPower land portfolio manager Adrian Wortman and Ron Sutherland, of Property and Land Management Services, in Blenheim.
In 2010 an Environment Court hearing in Blenheim cleared the way for TrustPower to build its scheme, which includes a hydro canal and power station on Burnside Farm, owned by the McLauchlans.
Mr Wortman told them they had visited most of 60 properties crossed by the planned scheme since June. Four owners remained adamantly opposed, 11 wanted more information on compensation and the precise location of the scheme, and 45 had signed deals with the company.
The McLauchlans asked whether TrustPower planned to apply to the Government for "acquiring authority" status, which would give them the right to compulsorily buy or lease land for the scheme.
Mr Wortman said the TrustPower board would make that decision.
The Government backed the Wairau project and the Marlborough community was supportive, he says on the tape.
"I would rather negotiate and reach agreement," Mr Wortman said. "My door is open."
Standing in the way of power schemes ruined lives and was not worth it, he said.
Contractors were no longer interested in building the Wairau scheme or a higher priority scheme on the Arnold River near Greymouth when there was a 10-15 year post-quake windfall in Christchurch, Mr Wortman said.
Construction companies would later have plenty of people and equipment to shift to developing the power schemes.
TrustPower was also chasing a window of attractive returns in wind power, Mr Wortman said.
Turbine prices had fallen to a record low as recession in Europe and the United States stopped wind farm developments overnight.
Because wind farms usually involved only two to four landowners, there was less opposition than for hydro, Mr Wortman said.
Meanwhile, there was no sense of urgency as growth in power consumption fell from about 45 per cent per year to 0.1 per cent during the past 18 months.
"The Wairau is still a very good scheme . . . which ticks a lot of the right boxes," Mr Wortman said.
It would provide irrigation, jobs and was at the end of two very long powerlines originating in Stoke near Nelson and Islington in Christchurch.
"I believe it will get built."
TrustPower communications manager Graeme Purches told the Express last week money which could have been spent on the Wairau and Arnold schemes had been channelled to a $435 million wind-farm development in South Australia.
The company's first wind-farm off the block in New Zealand would probably be in Southland.
- The Mirror