Clutha Upper Waitaki lines project put on the fast track

A project to boost New Zealand’s drive to be 100 per cent renewable in electricity, improve the national electricity grid’s resilience and provide valuable jobs in Central Otago has been approved for fast-track consideration of their application.

Environment Minister David Parker announced today that Transpower’s Clutha Upper Waitaki Lines Project will be the first proposal referred to an expert consenting panel for fast-track consenting.

The project will increase capacity on lines between the Otago-Southland region and the Waitaki Valley to allow additional electricity capacity to flow northwards and improve power supply into the Otago-Southland region during periods of low generation.

These lines would also be used to transport electricity generated by the proposed Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme near Roxburgh, if that multi-billion dollar project proves viable.

A temporary village would be constructed to house up to 100 people to work on the Transpower project if the panel grants the lines project consent.

“This is the first project to go through the referral process under the COVID-19 (Fast-track consenting) Act 2020,” David Parker said.  

The Act is one of the Government’s measures to boost jobs, speed up infrastructure development and improve environmental outcomes in response to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“The regional community has been hit by the downturn in tourism caused by COVID-19, so speeding up projects like this will help create up to 200 jobs while providing a much-needed improvement to an important part of New Zealand’s infrastructure,” he said. 

David Parker said that upgrading the capacity of the lines would mean excess power from Manapouri, if operations at Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter cease or reduce, could flow north.

“This project ticks all the boxes. It assists in the transition to a low-emissions economy, helps meet New Zealand’s climate change targets and increases the resilience of the electricity system and the national grid,” David Parker said.

The project will now be referred to an expert consenting panel by way of an Order in Council.  A decision on the application is expected to be made by the panel in early 2021.

More information about the decision can be found on the Ministry of the Environment’s website.