'Blackout threat' to $3 billion plan

OPPOSED: Ruakura Residents Group’s Bill Cowie said the Ruakura development is a good one but not in the right place.
OPPOSED: Ruakura Residents Group’s Bill Cowie said the Ruakura development is a good one but not in the right place.

Tainui's Ruakura development could be a safety hazard that might pose a risk to the supply of electricity on the national power grid and should be avoided, according to Transpower.

Opening statements were heard at the second day of the Environment Protection Agency hearing into the proposed freight hub development yesterday and included a damning safety assessment from New Zealand's state owned company which operates and maintains the national grid.

Counsel for Transpower James Gardner-Hopkins told the four-member Government-appointed board of inquiry the inland port proposal, in its current form, would have serious safety risks and "substantial cost implications" for Transpower.

Gardner-Hopkins said the cost would ultimately fall to the taxpayer.

Seven high-voltage transmission lines run through the plan change area and intensive freight handling beneath one of the 110-kV lines would create "a significant risk of serious harm".

A 4-metre buffer zone beneath the transmission line left between 2.5 metres and 7.9 metres of useable space for freight and was a minimum distance required for safe operation.

At 2.4 metres in height, stacked containers would close that space and increase risk which could cut off access to lines and cause power outages. "Taking into account the 4-metre minimum safe distance, that effectively leaves no room for containers to be loaded, unloaded, moved or stored beneath the lines," he said.

Transpower said the risk should be avoided with a reconfiguration of the inland port layout or a ban on activity until the lines were relocated or put underground.

TGH did not appreciate the need to avoid intensive work around the transmission lines and that was regrettable, he said.

"Had they done so, then they may have promoted a configuration of their inland port that was designed to avoid compromising the safe and efficient handling of the National Grid."

TGH will be called to present their evidence and respond to the concerns raised by Transpower as the hearing continues.

Counsel for the Ruakura residents group Julie Goodyer presented their opening submission and slammed TGH for a lack of negotiation while spokesman Bill Cowie called them "arrogant".

"They have simply been, in my opinion, arrogant and they have said they want us to be logistics so they don't have to attend to us and therefore the port can go butt to butt with our boundary."

Mr Cowie said the inland port was a worthwhile project, but they didn't want it in their backyard. "We like the concept. We don't believe it is in the right location - never have."

Proposed mitigation was a "Clayton's buffer" and the group said their concerns had not been taken seriously.

They wanted the inland port pushed back 200 metres to the south to create a buffer zone with a noise bund and green space. "They had it within their powers right from the word go to place the port and give us the same buffer they have accorded everyone else."

Silverdale residents group spokesman Dr Robert Bell said his groups had "major concerns" about the location of the inland port and its compatibility in the area.

They are bordered at the northern edge of their suburb by the Ruakura project and the Waikato Expressway to the east. He said residents were left out of the loop until the Proposed Regional Policy Statement in 2010 and TGH engaged in an "at-large public silence" on the project.

The hearing was adjourned until May 12.

Waikato Times