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Gerry Brownlee Denies Ruling Out Mokihinui Dam

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Nov 4 NZPA - Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee says reports of him saying the Mokihinui River dam will not go ahead are out of context, and he is not interfering with the planning process.

Meridian Energy is awaiting consent to build an 85m-high dam on the Mokihinui River, 3km upstream from Seddonville, northeast of Westport.

The dam would create a 14km lake and produce enough electricity for up to 51,000 households.

Independent commissioners are expected to make a decision soon.

Forest and Bird spokeswoman Debs Martin said Mr Brownlee told a Grey Power meeting in Nelson on Monday: "The Mokihinui will not go ahead."

Mr Brownlee told NZPA today he was not planning on interfering in the planning process in any way.

The reported comments were a few seconds out of a meeting that had lasted two hours and were taken out of context by an organisation that was seeking publicity, he said.

The Department of Conservation and the West Coast Regional and Buller District councils were among those who opposed the dam.

They believed it would have a significant environmental and social impact, destroying forest and vegetation, altering the landscape and threatening a number of species including the blue duck, and whitebait catches.

Labour's energy spokesman, Charles Chauvel, said Mr Brownlee's comments to the meeting showed he was out of depth in his portfolio.

Ministers should not express personal views about projects.

"Clearly he has been advised that there will be issues with consenting. It makes a mockery of the process to disclose that sort of advice in the way he has, without notice to the parties and in an aside at a public meeting," Mr Chauvel said.

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