18 Sep 2009

Waikato-Auckland power line opponents to fight on

9:50 pm on 18 September 2009

Opponents of a major new electricity transmission line from South Waikato to Auckland say although they are worn out from fighting it over the last five years, they will continue to fight for a just deal from Transpower.

The line, stretching almost 200km from South Waikato to Auckland, has been given the final go-ahead.

The $824 million project, first announced nearly five years ago, will run cables from 70m pylons and be capable of carrying 400KV of electricity.

The project received preliminary approval in June from a board of inquiry set up to hear resource consents, after the project was called in by the Minister for the Environment.

Construction of 426 towers will begin this summer and power should be running through the line in 2012.

Chief executive Dr Patrick Strange says Transpower has already secured access to two-thirds of the route, after discussions with landowners. He does not anticipate any appeals against the decision.

Opponents have 15 days to challenge the decision in the High Court, but only on points of law.

One opponent, Lorraine Bilby, who farms near Morrinsville, says those fighting the line are not going to roll over. She says she will not be surprised if there is renewed protest action once the pylons go up.

Ms Bilby says if they had had proper counsel at the board of inquiry hearing, there might have been a different outcome. She says they mistakenly believed the average person could represent themselves.

Transpower says its consultation process with landowners will be different with any new project in the future. Patrick Strange says it has been apparent that people didn't feel they had a say and were disenfranchised. He says Transpower has learned from that.