Irrigators are concerned that Meridian Energy may use the Electricity Industry Bill asset swap to renege on previous water allocation concessions.
The bill proposes a transfer of Meridian’s Tekapo A and B hydro power stations to Genesis Energy in exchange for the Whirinaki gas turbine station. The swap is designed to increase electricity market competition.
In a finance and expenditure select committee hearing today, Federated Farmers and the Waitaki Irrigators’ Collective (WIC) expressed concern that the bill would ignore previous negotiations between irrigators and Meridian.
Upholding the 2006 version of the Waitaki Water Allocation Regional Plan is of paramount concern, Federated Farmers chief executive Conor English told the committee.
A 1990 agreement between Meridian and irrigators allowed for a significantly higher level of upstream generation use – around 110 cubic metres more than that allocated under the 2006 plan.
Mr English said proposed changes to the bill would provide a loophole for Meridian and Genesis to honour the 1990 agreement.
He denied that irrigators were taking advantage of the select committee process to improve their position.
“The people who are asking for special pleading are Meridian,” he said.
“They do not want to face up to the reality that they’ve lost 110 cubics of their fuel through that process, which was a fraught process, a difficult process for all the parties involved.”
Mr English said if amendments were not made to include the 2006 regional plan, the government would be sending a signal that could undermine the democratic process.
Meridian representative Garth Dibley told the committee that disruption to other Waitaki and Mackenzie District water users would be kept to an “absolute minimum”.
He said Meridian was working to catalogue the multiple formal and informal agreements affected by the swap, and expected that most issues could be resolved within six months of the bill passing into law.
Wed, 19 May 2010