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Meridian gets the law on its side

By Chris Hutching

Friday 2nd May 2003

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The government has put into effect special legislation giving Meridian Energy powers to seize private property in the Waitaki Valley near Oamaru for its proposed $1.2 billion electricity generation and irrigation project, Project Aqua.

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs has granted the company the state's most draconian powers to acquire property as a "requiring authority" under s167(4) of the Resource Management Act.

The change was gazetted last week. Compensation will be determined by a valuation tribunal, based on valuations of neighbouring properties, rather than on a "willing buyer, willing seller" basis.

State-owned Meridian, producing 30% of the country's electricity and 70% of its hydro generation, is understood to have reached accommodations with most landowners in the Waitaki River area affected by its scheme.

The Waitaki River is one of the largest in the country and Meridian's controversial proposal involves diverting two-thirds of the water in the lower reaches into a series of canals for power stations and irrigation.

Meridian's Waitaki River generation system includes eight power stations beginning at Lake Tekapo (22% of the country's hydro generation with 800GWh of storage capacity), linked by canal to Lake Pukaki (with 44% of the country's hydro generation with 1600GWh of storage capacity), then to the Lake Ohau station, Lake Benmore and the Aviemore and Waitaki stations.

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