Pipeline fight looms

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A fight is looming over the proposed Okuru Enterprises Ltd water pipeline which would take water from a site near Mount Aspiring National Park to Jackson Bay.

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

Okuru Enterprises says it is in negotiations and work on the pipeline may begin before 2019.

A resource consent was granted for the pipeline by the West Coast Regional Council in 1994 but a lot had changed since then in how the environment was regarded, the person behind an 18,600-signature petition against the development, Action Station director of campaigns Laura O’Connell Rapira, said.

Only about 400 critically endangered Haast tokoeka kiwi were left and about 40 were thought to live in the area of the proposed pipeline, she said.

“The analysis on kiwi that was presented in 1994 was conducted by one individual. It said risk to kiwi was minimal but the research is 23 years old,” she said.

“The plan suggested at the time was to just move the kiwi to a different place if there were issues. It’s not a good precedent to move endangered indigenous birds to a different place, just to get what you want.

“A big concern is not just the pipeline. It’s also the road in and the construction of a dam. It will have a big effect,” she said.

The were also concerns about penguin habitat at Jackson Bay, where the pipeline would exit.

The development also has a 1994 easement from the Department of Conservation (Doc) to cross conservation land, that expires in 2019.

Doc Western South Island operations director Mark Davies said the easement conditions required the company to develop a kiwi management plan, a rehabilitation plan, submit construction plans and include a long-term pest control programme.

“These plans are required to be submitted to the department for approval, before any construction work commences,” he said.

A new easement would be required for the project past 2019, he said. The concession would be publicly notified, allowing for submissions.

“Due to the significant passage in time since the deed was originally approved [1994], and the fact that Okuru Enterprises Ltd has yet to commence the proposed activity, the department considers another full assessment of the impacts and effects would be required to inform the decision on a new easement, should one be sought,” he said.

A new application would consider whether the pipeline might allow easy access of pests into the Haast tokoeka sanctuary, he said.

The easements would allow a concrete and steel weir, the pipeline, a helicopter pad and access ways. During the construction phase a construction zone was allowed, for digger access to the weir site, but this was required to be rehabilitated once the construction was complete, Mr Davies said.

No road was permitted in the easement but a 3m-wide “construction zone” was allowed, so a 12-tonne digger could make a return journey to the site, he said.

“Other vehicle access to the site can only be done with written authority. The distance to the weir is approximately 3km, but until detailed plans are submitted an exact distance for the construction zone will not be known.”

Okuru Enterprises chairman Peter Roselli said he was unhappy with the way in which the issue was being reported and with what was being said about the project by Action Station.

He would not comment further as the project was “commercially sensitive”.