17 Feb 2010

Farmers threaten to cut access to power pylons

10:55 pm on 17 February 2010

South Canterbury farmers say Transpower has a week to come up with a compensation deal over pylons on their land or the padlocks are going on the gates.

Transpower is working to complete an upgrade of 20 power pylons in South Canterbury as part of the Roxburgh-Islington line which provides much of Christchurch's power.

The national grid operator needs access to the pylons situated on farmland between the Waitaki and Rangitata rivers and says there is no way it can compensate farmers who already have pylons on their land.

Farmers between the rivers say that for years Trustpower has had free access to pylons despite the inconvenience and they are sick of getting the runaround over the issue of compensation.

Farmers say four years of unfruitful negotiations have seen them absorb thousands of dollars in costs, and they do not want to take part in any more meetings.

On Tuesday, South Canterbury Federated Farmers resolved to give Transpower a week to deliver a compensation offer or it would be locked out of the farms.

Jim Talbot is one of 50 farmers who have been negotiating with Transpower and has already shut the gates at his Temuka farm.

Mr Talbot says other farmers throughout New Zealand are set to take similar action if the situation is not quickly resolved and believes this could cost Transpower thousands of dollars in legal action every time it wants to access to farmland.

Complicated issue, says Transpower

Transpower chief executive Patrick Strange says there is no way it can come up with compensation for farmers who already have power pylons in their paddocks and it is a complicated matter.

"For existing lines, there is no way - first of all, we would have to go to the Commerce Commission and get permission for more revenue. There's no way we can unilaterally just agree to some farmers to pay for rights which we legally have.

"I'm not saying they shouldn't get compensation, but that's the sort of national policy debate that's got to be had."

Dr Strange told Checkpoint he hopes it won't come to a lock-out situation and says there needs to be a policy change at government level to sort out the problem.