New optimism in campaign to stop pipeline

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The fight over the proposed water pipeline from a site near Mt Aspiring National Park to Jackson Bay is again heating up, with those opposed to the proposal feeling “more optimistic” given the change in government.

The company behind the pipeline, Okuru Enterprises, now trading as Alpine Pure, was granted resource consent for the project in 1994 by the West Coast Regional Council.

The pipeline will supply 800,000 million litres of water each month but will go through the Haast tokoeka (kiwi) Sanctuary that was gazetted in 2000.

In August, lobby group ActionStation gathered more than 18,600 signatures in a petition that called to “urgently withdraw permission for a pipeline to be laid through a sanctuary that is home to New Zealand’s rarest kiwi, the Haast tokoeka, by Mount Aspiring National Park”.

Then conservation minister Maggie Barry did not accept the petition when it was delivered to Parliament, claiming she needed to remain neutral.

Greens MP Eugenie Sage accepted the petition and vowed to table it with the Office of the Clerk.

Ms Sage is now Conservation Minister for the new Government.

ActionStation director of campaigns Laura O’Connell Rapira said the group was “certainly feeling more optimistic that she’ll be much more receptive”.

It would be Ms Sage who decided whether the issue was referred to a select committee, she said.

“My feeling is it probably won’t get to that.”

ActionStation was now gathering photographs of all the people who signed the petition, which would be made into a collage and delivered to Ms Sage before the last Parliamentary sitting of the year, she said.

The collage would put faces to names and further emphasise the number of people opposed to the project, she said.

It outweighed the number of residents who lived near the area that would be affected.

“This issue was obviously significant to a large number of people.”

Okuru’s proposal previously drew sharp criticism from Canterbury’s Bung the Bore campaign, and well-known conservationist Sir Alan Mark previously described the project as a “great violation of a protected area” and stated he would “stand in front of the bulldozer” to stop the project going ahead.

Okuru director Peter Rosselli would not comment on whether the new Government was likely to affect the project.