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Contact's Tauhara II geothermal station is first to be fast-tracked under EPA:

Tuesday 23rd March 2010

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Contact Energy has become the first to have a power station proposal referred to an independent board of inquiry under the fledgling Environmental Protection Authority. 

Environment Minister Nick Smith today said he has referred Contact’s consent application for a geothermal power station in the Tauhara steam field near Taupo to a board of inquiry because it is a nationally significant project.  Under the Key administration’s changes to the Resource Management Act, the hearing must be completed within nine months with limited appeal rights – a way to ensure projects in the national interest don’t get bogged in years of litigation. 

“A board of inquiry, chaired by an Environment Court Judge, is the most appropriate way to deal with this nationally significant geothermal power station proposal,” Smith said. “This Government is keen to encourage development of renewable energy, reversing the declining trend of the last decade.” 

Tauhara 2 will have capacity of 240MW, enough to supply power to all the homes in greater Wellington.

The application was the first to be submitted directly to the EPA without call in from a regional or territorial authority. The board of inquiry is to be headed by Environment Judge Gordon Whiting and include geothermal experts Patrick Browne and Brian White, Tikanga Maori adviser Glenice Paine and RMA expert Jenni Vernon. 

Contact chief executive David Baldwin said the power station represents about a $1 billion of investment in the Taupo region. 

For New Zealand to increase the amount of electricity generated fromrenewable sources, it was important that major generation projects were ableto be consented and constructed in a timely fashion, he said. 

Tauhara 2 follows Contact’s first stage of development of the Tauhara steam field, a $100 million, 23MW geothermal binary power station in the advanced stages ofcommissioning, Contact said in a statement. 

Shares of Contact fell 0.3% to $6.09 today.

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