Lake variation 'not needed'

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 01/06/2012

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Meridian wants Lake Pukaki at its maximum operating level all year round.

Spokeswoman Claire Shaw confirmed Meridian had talked to the Mackenzie District Council, Environment Canterbury, Genesis and some local landowners about the proposal.

The lake has a maximum operating level of 532.5 metres between April and September, and 532 metres for the rest of the year.

"This lower level was incorporated into our consent as a half metre `buffer' to guard against extreme inflows," she said.

"We now have another 30 years of inflow data which tells us seasonal variation in maximum lake level is not necessary."

Ms Shaw said the proposal would provide additional storage and hydro generation capacity without requiring any construction or physical works.

Mackenzie Federated Farmers chairman John Murray had not been informed about Meridian's proposal.

"It's news to me. I understand why they want to do this, but there could be issues about erosion," he said.

Mackenzie District Council asset manager Bernie Haar said Meridian had promised to address any possible erosion concerns.

"The only issue with this proposal is that with the current proximity of the eroded shoreline to Mt Cook Station Rd, it would only take one event to put the road at risk and make it unsafe," he said.

"I don't think staff would want to inspect the area every time a storm occurs over the summer period. Meridian has agreed they will undertake any inspections, so there shouldn't be any issue for us in terms of costs."

Meridian's application to lower the lake a further five metres from its present minimum level of 518 metres above sea level in the event of an energy crisis was still awaiting approval. Ms Shaw said the application was unrelated.

"[The lake-lowering] proposal was to assist generation in a national or South Island energy crisis. This is about making the best use of our operating assets within normal conditions."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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