Council denials at Nevis River hearing

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 10:34 25/10/2012

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Day two of a hearing that could protect the Nevis River from damming began with strenuous denials the Central Otago District Council had been "disingenuous" in previous court sessions.

The council's lawyer, Jane MacDonald, closed her opening submission by saying the council took "exception" to submissions by the Central Otago Environmental Society saying the council valued new development above environmental and landscape protection.

"That the council was being disingenuous is without foundation and is rejected by the CODC," Ms MacDonald said.

The Environmental Society's membership includes high-profile, well-funded Central Otago artists such as renowned landscape painter Grahame Sydney and poet Brian Turner.

A sub-group of the society, Save Central, received donations for a legal fight against a Meridian Energy wind farm on the remote Lammermoor Range that eventually totalled more than $100,000.

At the time Meridian Energy pulled out of the wind-farm battle, Mr Sydney said the withdrawal was proof that a small group with limited means could win a fight against the Government and corporates.

The three-week Environment Court hearing in Queenstown is the latest round in a fight that has been going on since the 1960s over whether the right to dam the river for hydro-electric power should be handed over to the resource consent process.

The Environmental Society is seeking to reinstate an Outstanding National Landscape protection order for the entire Nevis River Valley, which lies east of the Remarkables mountain range, halfway between Queenstown and Cromwell.

The protection order would essentially quash any development on the river, or in the valley it runs through.

The group also wants a complete prohibition on the damming of the Nevis River through retaining a water conservation order governing river use.

In his opening submission to the hearing on Monday, Environmental Society lawyer Mike Holm said Pioneer Generation, which is looking to retain the right to apply to build a dam, and the council had the same interests at heart.

"Pioneer Generation and the Central Otago District Council, in their own different ways, are seeking to leave the door open for a future resource consent application for hydro generation on the Nevis."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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