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Contact has second power project fast-tracked

Wednesday 27th August 2008

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Contact Energy, the biggest utility on the NZX 50 Index, will have a second power project fast-tracked after the government said it will call in its 540 megawatt Hauauru ma raki wind farm near Raglan.

Environment Minister Trevor Mallard will use his powers under the Resource Management Act to have the consent application considered by a board of inquiry rather than by local government organisations. The powers ensure projects of national interest don't get derailed in the appeals process.

For Contact, it is the second time in the past 12 months the government has stepped in to assist a renewable energy project. In December, it called in resource consent applications for the 225 megawatt Te Mihi geothermal station near Taupo.

Mallard's move "should remove the possibility of unnecessary delays," chief executive David Baldwin said.

The company's stock rose 0.6% to NZ$8.45.

Contact is investing NZ$3 billion over the next five years to build about 1400 megawatts of geothermal, wind, hydro and gas-fired plants.

Fast-tracking can help projects avoid lengthy delays. The process of renewing consents for its Wairakai and Clutha River hydroelectricity operations dragged out for six years.

By Jonathan Underhill

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