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TrustPower near end of battle to build Wairau Plant

Tuesday 5th August 2008

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TrustPower, the power station operator controlled by Infratil, is nearing the end of its six-year battle to gain resource consent for a 72 megawatt hydro-electric scheme near Blenheim.

The $275 million hydro scheme in Marlborough's Wairau Valley has been granted resource consent, the company said in a statement. Opponents of the proposal, first mooted in 2002, have 28 days to appeal.

The marathon process through the Resource Management Act to get approval for the hydro plant highlights the commercial risks to projects in complying with the planning rules. TrustPower had spent NZ$2 million on its efforts by the time it gained an interim approval last year, according to spokesman Graeme Purches.

The restrictions of the RMA are "appalling," Purches said. "Once a final decision is gained, the board will have to sit down and do the economics of it."

TrustPower is nursing several other projects through the consent process. Its 200 MW Mahinerangi wind project has consent, subject to the shape of its final plan. The 240 MW Kaiwera Downs wind farm has consent subject to appeal and TrustPower is hopeful the 45 MW Arnold River hydro scheme on the West Coast won't be appealed.

TrustPower shares were unchanged at NZ$7.75.

By Jonathan Underhill

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