Power station consents granted

Expansion of Top Energy’s geothermal power generation at Ngawha has been given the go-ahead following the withdrawal of challenges to the Environment Court.

Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw said concerns raised by Parahirahi C1 Trust, the kaitiaki of the geothermal field and pools at Ngawha, have been addressed and a joint Consent Order was filed with the Environment Court.

“This meant that there was no further opposition to the plans and the resource consents for the expansion of the Ngawha power station were granted.”

“It is a major step in securing a resilient and reliable power supply for the people of the Far North as well as reinforcing the power supply in the North Island following the closure of the gas and coal plants in south Auckland and the Waikato,” he said.

The Trust objected when Commissioners in September 2015 granted an extension of consents for Top Energy’s existing 25MW operation at Ngawha and approved new consents for a further 50MW of generation which will be built in two stages.

Mr Shaw acknowledged the efforts of the Trust to work with Top Energy to resolve concerns arising from the proposals, thereby avoiding a lengthy Environment Court process.

“We fully appreciate the cultural significance of the area and are committed to working with the Trust to ensure the sustainable management of the geothermic reservoir at Ngawha,” he said.

Parahirahi C1 Trust Chair, Dr Te Tuhi Robust described the agreement with Top Energy as an excellent outcome which provides more gains around technical issues within the consent.

“There is nothing within the agreement that sits at odds with the law or cultural integrity for us. We believe it reflects a willingness and commitment from Top Energy to work with our community and people.

“We all need to trust each other into the future to protect the taonga,” Dr Robust said.

As part of the agreement, Top Energy has agreed not to cause or contribute to any adverse effects on the pools.

This will require an independent monitoring programme to monitor fluids reinjected into the reservoir, including controls on the contents of that fluid to eliminate waste, and to ensure reinjection procedures reflect best practice.

Another condition is the appointment of a kaitiaki advisor who will advise an independent peer review panel and who will be consulted as part of Top Energy’s cultural indicators monitoring programme. In addition, Top Energy will also support the Trust in undertaking an annual independent scientific audit.

Finally, Top Energy will provide funding support for the development of Nga Waiariki pools area which are a popular tourist destination and a valuable local resource for the community.

The first of the new 25MW power stations could be producing power by 2020 which coincides with the closure of the Genesis Energy coal generation plants at Huntly.

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