Damning the tourism jewels

The Greens continue to campaign alongside others for the Mokihinui River gorge in the Buller District to remain a wild and scenic free-flowing river.

Meridian Energy has applied to the Councils and DOC for consents and concessions to dam the gorge. It’s on protected conservation land, and has historic artifacts such as the old pack track and bridge toppled in the 1929 Murchison earthquake.

The river biodiversity [PDF 2MB] is one of the most healthy and prolific in the country. It has been ranked the 7th most important river for natural values.

The Greens argue that these far outweigh the benefits of 310-360GW hours per year that the dam would produce, especially when the Arnold run-of-river 430GWh scheme is likely to go ahead and solve the West Coast’s security and efficiency of supply issues.

The other value of the Mokihinui is as a jewel in the 100% pure tourism crown of New Zealand. It’s easy for the Greens to say this, but it’s not just us who do – it’s the tourists who come there and support the local economy.

Today the Government trumpeted the one millionth Australian visitor to New Zealand this year. At the same time, one of those visitors wrote about their experience in the Lifestyle section of the Byron Shire News. The account of “Wild west adventure” tourism on the West Coast of the South Island says:

MAORI legend tells us the first person to set foot in New Zealand was Maui, who came ashore on the South Island’s wild and rugged West Coast at a place now called Bruce Bay. …

[Bruce Bay] is just one of the unexpected discoveries that make exploring this coastline such a delight. …

While the coast offers a never ending variety of natural vistas, there are also many man made attractions to keep you busy… But the main attractions along the West Coast are undoubtedly those nature has provided. …

North of Westport, on the banks of the untamed Mokihinui River, I find one of my favourite experiences.

Enough said.

11 Comments Posted

  1. “Or even offshore Wind for the Wild West Coast… anyone have any energy studies of the Coast”

    Well it would have to be well offshore because believe it or not the West Coast is one of the least windy parts of the South Island.

  2. Or even offshore Wind for the Wild West Coast… anyone have any energy studies of the Coast..

  3. Gerry browncoal Brownlee besides being the shadow mining and conservation minister is a useless energy minister, with no vision and a lack of knowledge of his portfolio.

    Be interesting to see where the Westcoast Hydo Ltd project goes. I would imagine decentralised and DIY energy would Coasters quite well.

    Ive always wondered if tidal and wind would suit the Coast well, along with micro hydro. While solar would be good for Nelson.

  4. The Mokihinui is a pretty special river, all other options should be explored before this one.
    The Arnold scheme looks as though it will go ahead, and will probably create more recreational use than it destroys, bit of a shame for the kayakers though.

  5. ps, have you heard anything in the EPA murmurs that suggest that the mooted agency will be able to take this wider view that regional councils have been unable to under the RMA?

  6. Kevin, I agree with the first part of your first paragraph since much the same has happened with water allocation in Canterbury.

    Regarding the second part, isn’t the real problem that although “us” own all the shares in Meridian we don’t have any real say in how those SOE’s operate. That is done on our behalf by a minister with at least one eye on the next election. Even when we had ECNZ or the Electricity Dept the situation was pretty much the same. As summed up by Patrick Strange in last Saturday’s Press:

    Transpower chief executive Patrick Strange told the Electricity Engineers’ Association’s conference in Christchurch yesterday that the growing number of people with heat pumps would have an effect on grid planning.

    “I do shudder a bit about heat pumps. Consumption is going up and electricity planning has to reflect that,” he said.

    In electricity load forecasting the only certain thing was “we have always been wrong”, Strange said.

    IMHO your second paragraph also applied under the single electricity authority. In the old days less demand equalled less borrowing authority to build new power stations. The central planners didn’t want little Mickey Mouse power untis upsetting the grand scheme of things.

    As for the last point, surely that is where the local lines companies have the advantage over the big generators and there dependence on Transpower winning it’s battles with the electricity commission:
    “The Marlborough Lines network has capacity for about 10 to 15 wind farms of similar size to the Weld Cone development on Marlborough’s east coast, he said.

    Any significantly bigger farm, however, would require an upgrade of the current network or the construction of a separate one


  7. i’ve taken the bus to christchurch from the coast a few times lately, and what struck me was that on the Tourism West Coast dvd they play, over half of the activities advertised are on wild rivers – this is how the west coast sells itself.

  8. Absolutely – not that coal trains would be my priority! But the key problem here is that decisions about generation are not made in a strategic way. The planning decision about Mokihinui is supposed to be made “blind” to the Stockton scheme (and actually there are now two contenders). With the current structure of the power industry there will be “within company” prioritisation decisions i.e. Meridian, for example, will make decisions about the best scheme it can put together (best for Meridian that is, not us) but there is no process that occurs in the public interest to determine which proposal on the table (or not) is actually most in the public interest.

    Two other consequences of our dopey power industry structure: in general it will not be in the industry’s interest to encourage consumers to use less power (i.e. we maximise rather than minimise our electricity usage), and in general it will not be in industry’s interest to facilitate distributed generation – where users and communities are encouraged to generate their own power and feed back into the grid. Distributed generation actually makes a great deal of sense for a region with the geography of the West Coast.

  9. mmm..!! byron bay..!

    ..(aahh!!!..the memories..!..)

    ..on-call home deliveries of cocaine..

    ..’mullumbimby madness’

    ..and the parties..!

    ..lordy..!..the parties..


Comments are closed.