The Timaru Herald urges people to think of the national good before appealing to the environment Court over the resource consent granted to Meridian Energy.
The fact that a significant chunk of power – enough to run a city the size of Christchurch – can be generated, apparently cost-efficiently, surely deserves strong consideration. Barely a winter goes by without security of power supply being raised as a potential problem, so significantly increased generation capacity must be a positive thing.
I agree but the national benefit isn’t without local and national costs.
The obvious one is environmental from reduced flows but there could be an economic cost too if fishing and boating which bring tourist dollars into the region are affected. And there will definitely be a local and national cost if Meridian’s project threatens the reliability of supply for irrigation.
The Mid River New Applicants’ Group, which represents irrigators on the lower river, wants Meridian to guarantee that reliable water supply will not be affected.
Ensuring reliability for existing irrigators is also something Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton will be watching closely.
He said the NBTC scheme would benefit the Waitaki district in terms of potential employment and an improved infrastructure.
However, he said it was vital present irrigators, at the very least, maintained their reliability of supply and were not disadvantaged by the scheme.
The Lower Waitaki irrigation scheme has been operating for about 30 years, the North Otago Irrigation Scheme is just over two years old and there are other smaller schemes, all of which provide 100% reliability of supply for farmers.
Any threat to that reliability is a threat to farming businesses, it would be a bit like building a hotel then finding that the road to it was only open some of the time.
The MAF Briefing to Incoming Ministers noted the contribution irrigation makes to the economy:
In 2002/03, irrigation was estimated to contribute around $920 million netGDP “at the farm gate”, over and above that which would have been produced from the same land without irrigation. Since then, the area of irrigated agriculture and horticulture has increased by about 25 percent, from 480 000 hectares to around 600 000 hectares.
Both a reliable supply of electricity and irrigation are important for the economy, the concern is that Meridian’s scheme to increase the former will reduce the latter.