23 Jul 2009

Hurunui dam plan 'could include hydro scheme'

3:26 pm on 23 July 2009

A proposal to build two large dams on Canterbury's Hurunui River for irrigation use could also include a hydro power generation system that proponents say will benefit a large number of people.

Environment Canterbury has agreed to test the Hurunui Water Project through the resource consent hearing process.

One of the proponents, MainPower, says the resource consent process will be a fair way to air all aspects of the proposal and to show how it could benefit many people.

Generation manager Todd Mead says there is presently no electricity generation in North Canterbury, and he believes hydro generation would be beneficial from a renewable energy perspective.

The proposal is from the Hurunui Water Project, a group made up of farmers, landowners, energy company MainPower and the property arm of Ngai Tahu.

Its consent application says one dam would shut off a seven kilometre stretch of river.

Project Manager Amanda Loeffen told Morning Report the needs of both recreationalists and irrigators can be met.

She says a much of the research being done for the project has concentrated on ensuring something similar to the natural flows of the river can be maintained, and if kayakers need low flow at certain times, that can be accommodated.

Whitewater New Zealand president Polly Miller says the dams would destroy the natural characteristics of the river forever.

Ms Miller says her group, along with Fish and Game, has asked the Environment Ministry for a conservation order to protect the river.