Summary: Waitaha Hydro Scheme Proposal - Keeping you informed

Who is Westpower? 

Westpower Limited (Westpower) is a 100% West Coast community owned company with its head office in Greymouth. The shares in the company are held by the West Coast Electric Power Trust on behalf of the electors of the district. We take great pride in ensuring we build and maintain a network which will provide the reliable delivery of electricity to our business and domestic customers.

What are you proposing?

Westpower wants to invest in the construction, operation and maintenance of a run-of–river hydro scheme on the Waitaha River. The proposal is to develop a hydro-electric power scheme based on a renewable resource.

The Scheme is located within and on the true right bank of the Waitaha River between the lower end of Kiwi Flat and Macgregor Creek within the Waitaha Valley, and within the northern half of the Westland District. It is predominantly on Stewardship Land managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). Sections of the access road, at or on the north bank of Macgregor Creek are located on land that is privately owned or crown land administered by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).

The Scheme will produce approximately 110-120 GWh per year with a maximum or peak output of about 16 – 20 MW. This is equivalent to providing electricity to approximately 12,000 households.

What is a concession application?

Westpower is applying for concessions from the Minister of Conservation for the benefit of the West Coast community served by Westpower. Concessions are required because the Waitaha Hydro Scheme is located on conservation land.

Have you applied for resource consents as well?

The technical reports commissioned for the Scheme and the Assessment of Environmental Effects have been prepared for both the concession and resource consent processes. Westpower decided to apply for concessions prior to the relevant consents because it is considered that the permission of the landowner of the conservation estate is critical to the success of the Scheme.

What work has been done to date on the environmental impacts?

Westpower has commissioned a range of ecological studies to understand the natural values of the area and to plan for the avoidance, remedy or mitigation of potential effects. These studies include aquatic ecology: fish; invertebrates and plants; whio/blue duck; and terrestrial fauna: birds; bats; lizard habitat; invertebrates; predators; and vegetation. Landscape and recreation assessments were also undertaken to assess the values of the Waitaha Catchment including in the context of local, regional, national and international significance. Each of the reports (which are available on our website) considers and assesses as relevant the potential effects from both construction and operation of the Scheme and makes recommendations in regard to mitigation and monitoring.

The assessments of effects of the Scheme on the existing values within the Waitaha Catchment have been closely considered. This has included consideration of options and alternatives (e.g. intake location) and a number of potential effects have been addressed through the planning, location and design process.

Consideration of the advice from experts and discussions with interested parties has resulted in a Scheme that has a small footprint that largely avoids or addresses potential and actual effects.

What did the experts conclude?

The respective expert assessments conclude that:

  • with respect to Natural Character, Landscape and Visual Amenity the Scheme will meet the emphasis of the Conservation Act, will sit well within its landscape and respond to its setting, and overall is considered appropriate with respect to natural character, landscape and visual amenity; and
  • with respect to Recreation and Tourism while a hydro-development and backcountry-remote zone recreation management category are not compatible, the "Outcomes" of the CMS for the 'Hokitika Place' will still be achieved with the Scheme in place. At the wider regional scale, which is more appropriate for kayaking opportunities due to the mobility of kayakers and their national and international origins, the Report concludes that, "... the effect of the Scheme on West Coast recreation and tourism generally will be very slight due to the high number of alternatives available for all activities affected by the Scheme and the relatively low level of use of the Kiwi Flat area .... ".

How does Westpower intend to avoid, remedy or mitigate any potential environmental effects of the Scheme?

Westpower has commissioned a range of technical and environmental assessments to ensure that the potential effects of the scheme are identified and where possible, avoided or otherwise remedied or mitigated. Each expert report contains recommendations to reduce adverse effects through measures such as design and suggested conditions for construction, operation and monitoring. These reports are available on our website.

Two examples of the avoidance of effects includes avoiding activities on Kiwi Flat by the selection of an intake at the bottom of Kiwi Flat rather than at the top of the flat, and the access road alignment to avoid the Stable Tributary.

The expert recommendations for mitigation and monitoring form an integral component of the application and the suggested draft concession conditions. The suggested conditions in the application (Section 9) seek to ensure that the assessed levels of effect, which are based on mitigation having been undertaken, of the Scheme are achieved, or where possible reduced.

Taking into account the potential effects, and the proposed measures to avoid remedy or mitigate those effects, it is considered that the granting of this Concession application with the suggested conditions will:

  • be consistent with the CMS and will not compromise the desired conservation "Outcomes" for the 'Hokitika Place' and the West Coast Conservancy; and
  • not be contrary to either the purpose for which the land is held as a Stewardship Area or the provisions of the Act.

Will communities get to have a say?

Westpower has provided opportunities for consultation early on and prior to submitting the application to identify the concerns that individuals or groups may have and to consider these in the planning and development stages of the Scheme.

Westpower selected the Scheme option that was determined to have a lesser environmental effect and incorporated features into the Scheme that addressed the concerns of some of the interested parties.

What will the benefits be to West Coast communities?

There are many positive effects or benefits associated with the Scheme and as Westpower is a 100% community owned company, all of the benefits are accrued by the community as consumers/shareholders within the Westpower distribution area as well as contributing on the regional, national and international level in terms of renewable energy generation. The Scheme will provide a significant long term and renewable asset to be owned by West Coast residents and businesses.

Positive effects of the Scheme and the development of the application can be divided into a range of areas relating to national, community, economic and environmental benefits.

NATIONAL

  • The Scheme utilises a renewable water resource to generate electricity and improves resource efficiency.
  • The Scheme will offset an estimated 51,120 tonnes of CO2 emissions/year associated with the equivalent output from a thermal generation source.
  • The proximity of the Scheme to end-users reduces transmission losses (approaching up to 20%), improving resource efficiency and reducing costs to consumers (also a community benefit).
  • The Scheme, which is aligned with the NZES target for renewable electricity generation (a 50% reduction in New Zealand’s carbon equivalent net emissions compared to 1990 levels, by 2050) will improve resource use efficiency by:
    • lowering the costs of generating additional quantities of electricity;
    • reducing transmission line losses;
    • increasing the geographic diversity of supply of electricity from hydro generating stations; and
    • potentially reducing New Zealand’s climate change liabilities.

COMMUNITY

  • The Scheme will increase the Westpower distribution area’s installed electricity capacity by 16 – 20MW and approximately 110-120 GWh per year. This is equivalent to the power needed to supply approximately 12,000 households per year.
  • This additional local generation will reduce the need to import electricity. In conjunction with the existing hydro schemes within the distribution area and along with the recently constructed Amethyst Hydro Scheme the local available peak power will almost be doubled.
  • The Scheme will improve the economic wellbeing of the Westland District and West Coast region by increasing employment, incomes and expenditure in the Westland District and West Coast economies during the Scheme’s construction and, to a lesser extent, during the Scheme's operation.
  • During construction increased spending on associated goods and services for the project plus Indirect economic effects (i.e. multiplier effects) could potentially create additional jobs and result in additional spending within the region.
  • Once operational, while minimal staff requirements, the facility will continue to use local contractors and resources for maintenance and infrastructure purposes.
  • Improvements in electricity supply, self-sufficiency and security of supply will help sustain employment in the key growth sectors for the Westland District and West Coast regional economies by providing increased confidence for business investment in Westland and on the West Coast through a more reliable and cost effective electricity supply.
  • Provides long term benefit for current and future generations on the West Coast.

IMPROVEMENT IN ENVIRO NMENTAL INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE

  • The wealth of information that has been gathered during the investigations of the Scheme provides a wide range of new information with regard to the Waitaha Catchment’s natural and recreational values that were previously unknown or not investigated, e.g. the existence of a significant long tail bat population, that koaro are the only fish species above Morgan Gorge.
  • A significant level of information has been developed to assist with the understanding and possible management of the blue duck population on the Waitaha River.
  • The cataloguing and recording of vegetation, invertebrates, avifauna, aquatic plants and invertebrates, fish, blue duck can be added to the relevant inventories (for example, freshwater ecosystems) in the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservancy.
  • The range of highly detailed information can be utilised to assist in understanding and managing the dynamics of ecological systems in the region and can be of use in enhanced decision making and future management of natural heritage values, including threatened species.

ENVIRONMENTAL

  • A run-of-river scheme has a very small environmental footprint, and retains the ecological intactness of the area.
  • Potential for Improved walking access into Kiwi Flat which may increase visitors to the area.
  • Increased, and publicly available, information on the river for recreational users of the area.
  • Potential to improve the habitat for blue duck and other species, through weed and pest management or other enhancement projects (e.g. WHIONE).

 

Where can I get more information about this proposal?

This summary information is discussed in more detail in the Concession Application and AEE report which is also available on the Westpower website. All of the reports referred to in this summary are included in the Concession Application and AEE.