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Meridian demands action on Project Aqua

By Chris Hutching

Friday 17th October 2003

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Meridian Energy chief executive Keith Turner upped the ante this week by complaining about the obstacles the company faced with its $1.5 billion Project Aqua and suggesting he might have to pull the plug on the hydro-generation venture.

The company has spent $20 million on consultants, lawyers, consultation and reports, which its owner, the government, will be loath to write off. Environment Canterbury and Otago Regional Council have also spent hundreds of thousand of dollars in initial processing of Meridian's resource applications.

Meridian and government officials have become alarmed at delays, with doubts that Meridian will get all the 75% of the Waitaki's 364cumec flow against competition from farm irrigators.

To add confusion, a recent Environment Court hearing turned down a would-be irrigator's application for water from the Waitaki River above the dam. Landowners in the Waitaki Valley are unsettled at the disruption to farm developments, with some of them irked that Meridian can invoke compulsory acquisition powers conferred by the government as provided for under the Resource Management Act.

Public opinion locally at Kurow appears to have turned against the project, with most of the 2000 people at a public meeting voicing disapproval.

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