RMA reforms deliver first major consent ahead of timeEnvironment
Environment Minister Nick Smith today welcomed the decision to grant consents for Contact Energy’s $1 billion Tauhara II 250 MW geothermal power station in Taupo – the first project processed under the national consenting process of the reformed Resource Management Act.
“This is the first time in 20 years a major project has been consented in eight months. The average time prior to these reforms was two years with some projects taking as long as eight years.” Dr Smith said.
“Long delays in getting consents for such renewable energy projects over the past decade came at a high economic and environmental cost. It meant delays in regions securing new jobs and the growth in electricity demand having to be met from old thermal power stations. These consenting delays contributed to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector more than doubling in the last decade.
“The Resource Management (Streamlining and Simplifying) Amendment Act 2009 provides for a one-step decision making process with a board of inquiry that is required to make a decision on consents within nine months. These decisions have limited appeals only on points of law rather than being subject to a de novo Environment Court hearing. I commend the Board of Inquiry led by Judge Gordon Whiting for concluding this major consent ahead of time.
“The Board has approved the application, with a number of conditions needing to be met by Contact Energy when building and operating the power station. The thorough consultation process undertaken by the Board of Inquiry has enabled the community, including iwi, to work through their concerns and resolve any issues. This is a robust and timely decision.”
Contact Energy lodged an application in March 2010 for consent to build the Tauhara II Geothermal Development. This was the first application received by the Environmental Protection Authority. The Minister subsequently directed the application be considered by an independent Board of Inquiry.
“The construction and development of this geothermal power station will involve 350 jobs over the 33-month construction period and be a welcomed economic boost to Taupo and the Central North Island. The 250MW of renewable power that will be added to the national grid is sufficient to power more than 200,000 homes or the equivalent of Hamilton and Tauranga.
“The consent approval for this $1 billion private sector investment is good news for the environment and the economy. It will boost New Zealand’s renewable energy base and help us towards achieving the goal of 90% renewables by 2025. It reinforces the merits of the Government’s resource management reforms as part of the broader strategy for investment, jobs and growth.”