The Green Party welcomes moves to increase renewable electricity generation in New Zealand but has concerns that the National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation, which goes into effect tomorrow, will facilitate the development of environmentally harmful projects.
"We are fortunate to live in a country rich in renewable energy sources, and the Green Party wants to make the most of our natural assets, but we must ensure that we do so in the best interest of New Zealanders and the environment," said Green Party energy spokesperson Kennedy Graham.
Dr Graham was providing comment on the National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation (NPS), which comes into effect tomorrow.
"We welcome the intent of the NPS, but are concerned that it lacks a clause that would direct councils to consider competing proposals, and where costs were similar, to choose the lowest impact projects," said Dr Graham.
"The lack of this clause means we will continue to have projects driven by energy companies in the interest of profit, rather than projects developed in the best interest of the public and the environment.
"For example, on the West Coast of the South Island, Meridian Energy was granted a resource consent for an 85m dam on the pristine Mokihinui River, despite alternatives that were better for the environment and met the electricity needs of the West Coast for the foreseeable future."
Although a resource consent has been granted, the project is on hold as this consent is being challenged in the courts.
Green Party conservation spokesperson and West Coast-based MP Kevin Hague also expressed concern about the implementation of the NPS.
"The current system by which we grant resource consent for hydro schemes is not good practice, and I am disappointed that the NPS does not direct councils to improve this system," said Mr Hague.
"While the water in the Mokihinui River may be a renewable resource, the habitat that will be flooded by the dam is not."
"The Mokihinui River is a wild pristine river which is home to the western weka, blue duck, and twelve species of native fish including the chronically endangered and endemic longfinned eel."
"We need national policy that will protect our treasured wild rivers, not sacrifice them to electricity generation when other smart options are available," said Mr Hague.