Matahina Dam Consent Issued
Monday, 23 September 2013 3:30 p.m.
The Environment Court has granted TrustPower Limited a 35-year resource consent for operating the Matahina Hydropower Scheme using a modified operating regime.
Resource consent conditions require increased monitoring and five-yearly reviews, with changes to resource conditions if warranted. TrustPower will significantly increase its financial contribution to flood protection.
TrustPower has been granted increased ramping rates (how fast downstream river levels are allowed to rise and fall), and multiple peaking (changes in downstream flow). However, it has not been granted all the changes they requested in their original application, most notably the proposed low flow in the Rangitaiki.
TrustPower currently makes a financial contribution toward the river scheme. The court decision means that contribution will significantly increase. TrustPower will also pay a one-off financial contribution to recover costs for the 2010/2011 floods.
The resource consent also requires TrustPower to work with the Regional Council’s Natural Hazards Group to pre-lower the Matahina Dam further in advance of a significant flood. This will maximise floodwater storage in the dam, and reduce the flood peak downstream.
Regional Council General Manager Environmental Management Eddie Grogan said: “Regional Council believes the resource consent conditions make sure that any impact on the environment, the Rangitaiki River Scheme, and flood protection will be well managed and mitigated.”
General Manager Natural Hazards Ken Tarboton said: “The resource consent conditions will help to better mitigate floods, and the increased financial contribution will contribute towards managing the impact of erosion of the Rangitaiki River banks”.
TrustPower Consent Application, Matahina Hydro-Electric Power Scheme
An update from Bay of Plenty Regional Council
23 September 2013
TrustPower Limited has been granted a 35 year consent to operate the Matahina Dam Hydropower Scheme using a modified operating regime. This became effective on 13 September 2013 with the signing of a Consent Order by Environment Court Judge Smith.
The decision follows a mediated process between Bay of Plenty Regional Council, TrustPower and the Regional Council’s Natural Hazards Group and other parties to the consent appeal.
TrustPower applied to Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC) for renewal of their resource consent for operating the Matahina Dam back in 2009. Following a lengthy period of consultation with many parties the resource consent application was heard by independent Commissioners in 2011.
The Commissioners released their decision to grant consent in February 2012. However, both TrustPower, as the applicant, and the Natural Hazards Group (NHG) of BOPRC, as managers of the Rangitaiki River Scheme, appealed to the Environment Court against some of the granted consent conditions. Many other parties including Ngāti Awa, Federated Farmers, downstream water abstractors, Royal Forest and Bird Society, HortNZ and several individual landowners also joined the appellants to obtain more agreeable consent conditions.
Following a lengthy period of negotiations and four court-assisted mediations all of the parties eventually agreed on new consent conditions and jointly recommended to the Environment Court to grant consent. Resource Consent was subsequently granted to TrustPower by the Environment Court on 13 September 2013.
Having worked together to reach an agreement, it is likely this will support a positive future working relationship between the parties.
What was the application for?
This application was to renew the TrustPower consent for operation of the Matahina Hydro-Electric Power Scheme on the Rangitaiki River which expired in 2009 and also to change the operating regime. Requested changes to operations included cyclical peaking (changes in downstream flow) many times a day (currently limited to two times a day), increased ramping rates (how fast downstream river levels are allowed to rise and fall), and the minimum flow rates of water passing through the power generation system.
Was the application approved?
Following the hearing by the Independent Commissioners, the Regional Council’s Environmental Management Group granted a 35-year consent for the modified regime in February 2012, however that decision did not grant all of the changes to the operating regime requested by TrustPower, most notably the proposed low flow.
Independent Resource Management Act Commissioners were used to hear this consent to remove any potential conflict of interest within the Regional Council.
Was there an appeal against the decision?
Two parties, BOPRC’s Natural Hazards Group and TrustPower, appealed the decision to grant resource consent for the modified operating regime.
Is there a conflict with a BOPRC department appealing the decision?
The Regional Council often wears ‘two hats’ in resource consent situations. In this case we are the consent authority that approves or denies resource consent applications on the grounds of their environmental impact, and at the same time, we are also the managers of river flood protection schemes through our Natural Hazards Group(NHG). The NHG as managers of the Rangitaiki River Scheme represent the scheme in considering any changes to a river’s running regime and how this could affect river scheme assets including river banks and stopbanks.
This is a feature of how many local authorities operate: decisions made for environmental reasons by one part of a Council may be appealed by another part of a Council.
The Regional Council has to make sure there is no actual or perceived bias or conflict in our decisions. One technique used to ensure this is the use of independent, MfE-certified hearing commissioners.
What did the appeal mean for the resource consent?
The consent application process commenced prior to the expiration of TrustPower’s consent in 2009. Though the application, hearing and appeal process, TrustPower Ltd has been required to continue operating the Hydropower Scheme under the terms of its previous resource consent.
Through the appeals Regional Council worked with TrustPower Ltd, the appellants’ and other interested parties to reach an agreement to enable final approval of the modified resource consent, while making sure that any impact on the environment, the community, the Rangitaiki River Scheme, and flood protection would be well managed and mitigated.
Regional Council believes that the consent granted by the Environment Court ensures that any impact on the environment, the Rangitaiki River Scheme, and flood protection will be well managed and mitigated. All the supporters of the Natural Hazard Group’s appeal signed the final consent order before it was put before Judge Smith.
Were there settlements to allow parties to agree on the consent conditions?
Regional Council understands that several agreements have been entered into between TrustPower and interested parties, however is not in a position to comment on those settlements. The agreed consent conditions reflect the conditions to which all parties have agreed.
What’s in the agreement between TrustPower and Natural Hazards Group?
Here is a summary of the key features of the agreement.
• TrustPower Ltd have been granted a renewed consent incorporating a modified operating regime at Matahina Dam. This regime allows for multiple peaking and more rapid ramping up and ramping down of outflows from the dam.
• Additional consent conditions have been added including:
o stricter monitoring of the environmental impact of the modified regime
o five-yearly reviews so changes can be made if needed – such as reducing the flow variations if these variations are found to be having a detrimental impact on the river banks.
• TrustPower is required to work with the Natural Hazards Group to pre-lower the Dam when a significant flood event is forecast, to maximise storage of floodwaters in the dam and reduce the flood peak downstream of the Dam.
• A financial contribution from TrustPower Ltd towards river maintenance works and flood damage repair including:
o An Increase in TrustPower Ltd’s annual financial contribution to an agreed value.
o The annual contribution will be on a percentage basis, meaning that if the budget or expenditure on river scheme in the reaches of the Rangitaiki River downstream of Matahina Dam changes, TrustPower’s contribution will change proportionally.
o TrustPower will also be required to make financial contributions toward extraordinary flood damage repairs, that was excluded from the previous agreement.
o TrustPower have made a significant confidential financial contribution toward erosion repair works resulting from the 2010 & 2011 flood events.