The Clutha’s still there

16/07/2012

We drove down the east side of Lake Dunstan before crossing over it at Cromwell on Wednesday evening.

The lake was formed – more than a little controversially – when the Clyde Dam was built.

It interrupts the flow of the Clutha River but the river is still there, feeding and in turn being fed by Lake Dunstan.

We crossed the Clutha again north of Luggate on our way home yesterday. The water looked just as it always has, even though it’s dammed at Hawea a few kilometres above the bridge.

I have no doubt it looks the same below the  Clyde Dam too even though both dams are owned by Contact Energy which, is a publicly listed power company.

In case that’s not clear, that means the state doesn’t own the dams and hasn’t for sometime.

Private ownership of the power companies operating on the Clutha River hasn’t affected the water and whoever may or may not own it. Why would the partial float of other energy companies have any affect on the water they use?


No more Clutha dams

02/05/2012

The grapevine has been saying for several months that Contact Energy no longer wanted land along the Clutha River.

The logical conclusion from that was that the company was giving up its plans to build more dams on the river and that has been confirmed:

The energy company has spent the past three years investigating the options at four sites, Luggate, Beaumont, Queensberry and Tuapeka Mouth.

It says the costs were much higher than the expected $300 million to $1.5 billion per dam, meaning none of the options are viable in the foreseeable future. . .

Other factors contributing to the decision include the unease within communities living along the Clutha and the cost of transmission, including future upgrades of the Cook Strait cable.

The company has bought land along the river. This decision could mean there will be several farms for sale.


Their land, our water

28/01/2010

The paddocks on the side of the road between Tarras and the bridge over the Clutha near Luggate used to be dry and barren for most of the year.

Some of them still are, but others are green and productive, thanks to irrigation.

Which looks better is a matter of opinion but I prefer the green and admire the increased productivity farmers are getting from it.

Some of the irrigated farmland which would have struggled to support a few sheep is now able to feed bulls. These bulls no doubt have the same sort of outputs as dairy cows, but there is a major difference between the Upper Clutha farms and the dairy operations proposed for the Mackenzie Basin and that’s scale.

The bulls grazing paddocks beside the Tarras-Luggate road number in the low 10s. The Mackenzie dairy proposals are for nearly 18,000 cows.

In announcing that he’s calling in the consents for these big operations, Environment Minister Nick Smith said that stock will produce effluent similar to the amount produced by a city of 250,000 people.

That’s an awful lot of waste and helps explains why Environment Canterbury received around 5,000 submissions on the applications for resource consent.

Some were about animal welfare which do not come under the Resource Management Act and I’d be very surprised if any of the concerns were valid. Keeping cattle indoors may not be the way we’re used to farming here but it doesn’t by itself constitute any welfare issues.

Some were about what irrigation and dairying would do to the views. That is entirely subjective, what some regard as beautiful productive paddocks, others will see as blots on the landscape.

Although, it’s not just about how the landscape looks but what’s happening to it. Those travelling through at 100 kilometres an hour don’t appreciate the environmental damage that unrelenting heat and wind can do.

In the January 2-8 Listener, Simon Williamson of Glenbrook Station, was asked about the cost to the landscape of irrigation. He replied:

“I don’t see how it detracts. A green foreground and brown hills. Before it would have been a brown foreground and a dust storm.” *

Many of the other submissions were on the potential threat to water quality and these  submitters are on stronger ground.

Housing the cows as is proposed in the applications allows the farms to have much more control on the dispersal of effluent than if the stock was grazing pasture. But systems are only as good as the people who operate them and can never be fool-proof.

Besides, whether inside or out, these cattle will produce a lot of effluent. The Minster’s appointees will have to be satisfied that there is no danger to water quality from it and that may be very difficult to guarantee.

It is the applicants’ land but their right to do what they will with it doesn’t extend to polluting our water.

* The Williamson quote isn’t online, but the rest of the feature from which it came, Mainland dust-up, is on line and well worth a read.

Update: Federated Farmers media release on the calling in is here.


Contact’s eyeing the Clutha

09/08/2008

Contact Energy is investigating more dams on the Clutha River.

Contact Energy’s Wellington-based communications manager Jonathan Hill said the power company was “taking a close look again” at old proposals which had been on the back burner, such as those involving sites at Beaumont, Luggate and Queensberry.

… Mr Hill said Contact did not have any firm plans in place and was simply looking at all of its options.

“However, we have a clear preference that any new hydro developments should be on rivers that already have hydro schemes on them, to avoid altering virgin rivers.”

Beaumont, Luggate and Queensberry on the Clutha River had all been proposed as possible sites.

Mr Hill said they were the only river schemes that Contact was actively looking at as the plans had already been drawn up by the previous owner, ECNZ.

“I think its a very important point to make that if we do identify a project that we would like to advance, the first steps will be to discuss it with local communities.

“The role of new, large-scale hydro projects will be particularly important in an environment in which there is growing concern around climate change and sustainability and in which traditional thermal fuels such as gas are becoming increasingly expensive,” he added.

The increase in thermal generation has been a major contributor to the increase in our carbon emissions. But the difficulty of getting through the Resource Management Act makes the development of new wind and hydro generation a long, involved and expensive process.

The Environment Court appeal against Meridian Energy’s  application consent for its Project Hayes windfarm in the Lammermoor Range has been adjourned until January.

Its Project Aqua on the south of the Waitaki River never got to the consent stage but the company is now looking at a scheme on the north bank.

This winter’s power crisis was avoided by conservation measures and timely rainfalls, but at great cost to businesses and the economy.

Conservation measures can only do so much, if we want to be a first world country with a first world economy so we can afford first world social and environmental initiatives, we need first world power supplies and that means more generation.

If the past is any guide there will be fierce oppostion to more dams on the Clutha. But if we have to reduce carbon emissions and nuclear generation is neither popular nor practical then we have to accept more wind and/or hydro schemes.


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