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Published: 2010-05-13 00:00:00

Environment Waikato hearings commissioner have granted 17 resource consents to a joint venture looking to build the proposed Ngatamariki Geothermal Development at Tahorakuri, near Taupo.

The EW consents have been granted to Rotokawa Joint Venture Limited, formed between the Maori-owned Tauhara No 2 Trust and Mighty River Power.

The EW commissioners, who sat in joint hearings with Taupo District Council commissioners in March, said in their findings that the consent conditions they imposed would help manage any environmental risks associated with the project.

In their decision, EW’s commissioners Jeff Jones and David Roke said they had taken into account the fact that the plant would create energy from a renewable source, cut greenhouse gas emissions and provide Maori with a significant economic opportunity. They also said adverse effects predicted over the 35 years of the consents were not expected to be more than minor.

Consent conditions included:

· Establishment of an independent peer review panel to provide high level technical advice and assistance to EW

· Comprehensive monitoring and reporting of effects of the development on the geothermal system itself and the wider environment.

On particular concerns the development could affect the nearby Orakei Korako Geothermal System, which supports tourist operations, the commissioners said such any such effects fell into the "low probability, high potential impact category".

However, they said they had reached the conclusion that various measures imposed would help protect Orakei Korako, which meant that declining the relevant applications was not warranted.

Another significant issue addressed by the commissioners was the degree to which groundwater beneath the development site might be adversely affected by the project. They imposed consent conditions aimed at ensuring contaminant discharges to ground or water were properly managed.

In addition to the resource consents granted by EW, Taupo District Council’s independent hearings commissioners Alan Watson and Bill Wasley have also granted the requisite land use consents to Rotokawa Joint Venture Ltd to construct, operate and maintain a geothermal power station (Ngatamariki).

Commissioners Watson and Wasley deemed the proposal "an appropriate development for the subject site to utilise an existing natural resource in a sustainable manner, subject to the relevant conditions defined in the consent. In all circumstances, the proposal is consistent with the purpose and principles of the Resource Management Act 1991."

They also said that the proposal will have positive effects on the nation's electricity supply and provide economic benefits to the local and regional economy.