24 Jul 2016

Landowners refuse to budge over new powerline

11:01 am on 24 July 2016

Far North lines company Top Energy is invoking the Public Works Act to force a group of landowners to allow a new power line across their properties.

Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw at Ngawha.

Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw at Ngawha. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw said the transmission line from Kerikeri to Kaitaia would give the region the security of power supply it badly needed.

Top Energy has negotiated easements with 80 landowners including iwi, but after nearly three years, nine owners are still holding out.

Mr Shaw said some were people who had come to the Far North to get away from signs of civilisation, and for others, it was about the money.

"In contrast, we had a very generous response from Māori interests, north of Kerikeri, who said 'just take it - it's for the good of the community,'" he said.

They and other owners had been compensated using a formula which paid them the highest of three valuations, plus a premium, in recognition of the savings made by not having to use the Public Works Act.

The government is empowered under the act to acquire any land needed for government work.

Mr Shaw said the new transmission line was critical for Kaitaia and east coast communities including Kaeo.

The existing line which Top Energy bought for $6 million from Transpower in 2012, ran through steep unstable country and at 60-years-old, was in constant need of repair, he said.

At least once a year, Top Energy turns off the power to Kaitaia and the East Coast for an entire day while it carries out maintenance.

Mr Shaw said the line was also at risk in stormy weather.

"At the moment we have 10,000 customers who are totally reliant on that one line," he said.

"We've had two occasions in the past two years when we've had landslides that have almost taken it out. And if we did lose one of the towers, Kaitaia would have no power for 10 days."

Mr Shaw said the next step in acquiring the easements for the new line, would be to hand the negotiations over to the government.

"It's a last resort," he said.

"We are still open to deal with those nine owners, but we've begun the process of asking the government to step in, under the Public Works Act."

Mr Shaw said it would have been easier to put the new transmission line over Crown land in the north.

But much of it was under Treaty claim and the Office of Treaty Settlements did not allow easements until claims over Crown land were settled.