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Published: 2005-03-15 00:00:00

Environment Waikato Councillors want to have a workshop to discuss the Council’s role in contentious national economic development issues that affect the Region, such as Transpower’s pylons and deforestation in the upper Waikato catchment.

This week’s Regulatory Committee meeting heard that the primary regulatory role for the pylon issue lay with nine affected district councils. Environment Waikato had offered to assist in the process if the other councils wanted it to, and was involved in on-going discussions between the parties.

But some Councillors were frustrated at their inability to get involved in national initiatives that affect the Region. Cr Lois Livingston said she was regularly asked what the Council was doing about contentious issues, including the controversial pylon plan through the Region and plans to convert forestry in the Taupo area into intensive agriculture.

Cr Andra Neeley said the Council should be able to make a case on behalf of the people in its area on nationally important issues, rather than being unable to become involved.

Cr Barry O’Connor said he had been involved in the previous power pylon procedure and at the end of the day, the power company took the route it wanted and which would generate the least ‘grief’ for the company.

“I felt that councils should be united in taking a line and identifying where such an energy corridor should go.”

Cr Neeley said there had to be a way of looking at what was driving the economy.

“This project has been waiting for 10 years until the pressure came from the lights going out in Auckland. We lack an energy plan in this country, and find ourselves arguing about who is going to sit under pylons rather than arguing a generation and supply strategic plan for the country’s future energy needs.”

Cr Livingston said the Council needed to take a look at economic growth and its environmental implications, and formulate a planning response accordingly.

Chief Executive Harry Wilson said the frustration was in the nature of the power pylon debate, which constrained the argument to a route designation rather than the wider issue of energy supply and demand management. A workshop would be timely as the Council’s economic responsibilities were going to be strengthened, he said.