New Zealand’s Environment Court has approved Meridian Energy’s request to use water from Lake Waitaki for a 260-MW hydropower project.
The North Bank Tunnel Concept hydropower project would divert water from the lake into a tunnel, deliver it to a power station to generate electricity, and then return it to the Waitaki River 34 kilometers downstream.
The court’s decision to grant the company water is subject to the completion of management and mitigation plans regarding wetlands and braided river birds.
“The decision is very comprehensive, so our next step is to work through it carefully to better understand it and its implications for the project,” said Tim Lusk, Meridian’s chief executive. “There’s much opportunity for Meridian to positively engage with the community and this engagement will be a key focus for us as we move to address the outstanding issues.”
The Waitaki Protection Trust ended its opposition to the project earlier this year after Meridian signed an agreement providing certain environmental guarantees. (HydroWorld 5/6/09)
Meridian said it expects to complete a feasibility study and receive all the necessary consents from the court by 2012. Until then, it cannot commit to the design and construction of the project.