Westpower hydro decision shows need for better process

August 30, 2019

The government’s decision to stop the Westpower Hydro scheme shows the urgent need for a better consenting process:

“The cancellation of the Westpower hydro scheme concession under the Conservation Act after years of community engagement has significant implications for the review of the resource management system that is about to commence and underlines the need for an improved system for planning consents,” says Paul Blair, the new CEO for Infrastructure New Zealand.

“Westpower, the locally owned electricity distributer and generator for Westland, had hoped to build a 20 MW hydro scheme on the Waitaha river on the South Island’s West Coast.

“The scheme would have improved resilience of electricity supply, was aligned with national carbon reduction priorities and would have injected millions of dollars into a part of the country whose traditional industries are under significant pressure.

An old joke asks: what do conservationists do if they see and endangered bird eating a threatened plant?

In this case conservation decided the natural beauty of the river trumped the need for renewable energy which gives credence to those opposed to declarations of climate emergencies.

“But it also would have reduced water flows along a pristine river, impacting recreational activities, and impacted the natural character of the area.

“This was always going to be a difficult decision, but the fact that a local company spent millions of dollars before a line call from a Cabinet Minister cancelled the proposal shows how tenuous and uncertain the consenting process is in New Zealand.

Is it any wonder we have such low productivity when so much time and money is wasted like this?

“Though this was a Conservation Act process, this is an excellent case study for the RMA review panel chaired by retired court of appeal judge Tony Randerson.

“How do we develop a system to optimally trade off the wider social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits of a proposal versus negative environmental effects?

“How do we balance local aspirations to grow and prosper against national objectives to retain areas of national significance?

“How do we provide guidance or accelerate decision making so that economic and social uncertainty, waste and frustration are mitigated, along with environmental impacts?

“In a better system, the need to expand renewable energy supply would have been part of a coordinated regional plan for Westland, led by the region, supported by central government, iwi and local communities, and linked to a wider programme designed to enhance regional wellbeing.

“National concerns about the significance of the Waitaha river would have been tackled through a collaborative planning process and either the effects mitigated or alternatives developed.

“That would have saved everyone a lot of time and cost and instead of wondering ‘what next?’ Westland would now be implementing an agreed strategy to lift incomes and improve the environment,” Blair says. 

Conservation concerns have stopped mining and forestry on the West Coast, now they’ve stopped the hydro project which could have provided jobs, renewable energy and energy security.

Whether or not the decision is the right one, the long and expensive process that preceded it is wrong and must be addressed through RMA reform.

 


Rural round-up

September 9, 2017

Alliance Group beefing up facilities to meet demand for blood products –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Alliance Group will invest $1.7 million in two plants in order to meet growing demand for New Zealand-sourced blood products.

In Pukeuri in Oamaru it will build a new facility created to help boost the recovery of blood-based products for sale to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, the cooperative said in a statement. The meat processor will also improve the recovery of offal and upgrade the pet food area, it said. . . 

Kelso farmers raising bobby calves for beef – Nicole Sharp:

Kelso dairy farmers Ken and Bruce Eade have been rearing their bobby calves for the beef industry for the past three years.

The father-and-son duo farm 270ha with their wives, Nancy and Tanya, in West Otago and after they bought their heifer block, down from the main farm, they decided it made economic sense to hang on to the bobby calves, they said.

Bobby calves being kept back for beef

”We thought we might as well run some bull-beef there too,” Bruce said. . . 

New environmental focus for irrigation funding:

A change to the constitution of Crown Irrigation Investments Limited (CIIL) will allow it to fund water storage projects with direct environmental and economic benefits, rather than on the basis of purely economic grounds, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

“This is an important change to CIIL’s mandate which recognises and reinforces how important water storage and distribution projects are to the environment,” says Mr Guy.

“The current rules limit CIIL’s purpose to considering the long-term economic benefits from projects that it invests in, but it makes sense to broaden the scope given the wider benefits of these projects. It will now be able to provide concessionary loans to local authorities for projects that directly lead to environmental benefits.”

The change was originally requested by CIIL and has now been formally approved by Cabinet. . . 

Irrigation changes needed to deliver prosperous and resilient rural areas:

“The change to the constitution of Crown Irrigation Investments Limited (CIIL) to allow it to fund water storage projects that directly lead to environmental benefits is a very positive step and should be extended to recognise resilience and social benefits as well,” says Infrastructure New Zealand’s Chief Executive Stephen Selwood.

“To date, existing rules guiding the government’s irrigation investment arm have placed a too narrow focus on direct economic benefits.

“This has resulted in disproportionate emphasis on maximising land use productivity and insufficient recognition of wider economic, social and environmental benefits. . . 

Agrichemical recovery scheme gains extended Government recognition:

A nationwide programme to recycle agricultural plastics and dispose of agrichemicals has had its status as a ‘product stewardship scheme’ extended by the Government, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson announced today

Mr Simpson met with representatives of Agrecovery to formally reaccredit them for another seven years as a product stewardship scheme under the Waste Minimisation Act.

Agrecovery collects unwanted chemical drums and containers from agricultural brand owners throughout New Zealand. The scheme is widely supported by farmers, growers, local government and agrichemical and dairy hygiene companies. . . 

Bright Future for Sustainable Forestry in NZ

A young New Zealander Alfred Duval has been launched onto the world stage. Celebrated for his outstanding achievements as an emerging leader in sustainable forestry.

Duval was awarded the inaugural Prince of Wales Award for Sustainable Forestry in Rotorua on Tuesday 5th September at the NZ Institute of Forestry’s annual awards ceremony.

The new prize was set up earlier this year, to reward and encourage a young New Zealand forestry professional working in the vital area of sustainable forest management. Similar initiatives have been established in Australia and Canada. . . 

Fonterra’s GlobalDairyTrade investigates European tie-up – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group’s online auction platform GlobalDairyTrade is looking at a tie-up with the European Energy Exchange to extend the dairy offering available in the region.

The two operators have signed a letter of intent to investigate whether they should set up a joint venture establishing and operating an auction mechanism for dairy products originating in Europe, they said in a statement. The companies will talk to buyers and sellers about joint price discovery through an auction designed for Europe. . . 


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