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Hearings starting next week for a proposed new gas-fired power station in National Leader John Key’s electorate of Helensville are a major test for Mr Key and his party on climate change issues, Greens Co-Leader Russel Norman says.
“Genesis Energy’s plan to build a 480 megawatt station at Kaukapakapa amounts to empire building by the company because it doesn’t make economic or environmental sense,” Dr Norman says.
“When talking to his constituents, Mr Key is neither confirming nor denying being a strong supporter of the project and is dodging the issue. He didn’t agree to meet the Kaukapakapa Residents and Ratepayers Association until the New Zealand Press Association reported on July 29 he had told the group his diary was ‘fully booked until after the election’.”
Since then he has said locally that, “National would seek an assurance that the construction ensured the maximum mitigation of noise…” and… “In principle… National is not intrinsically opposed to this new power plant.” Also, “If Genesis continues to press ahead, the project will need to go through the Environment Court. We intend to follow that process closely.”
However it appeared from National’s recently-released energy policy that National was unequivocally behind the scheme. Last month in a nationwide forum, Mr Key announced a National government would overturn the restriction on new thermal power stations.
Says Dr Norman, "Their policy supporting gas-fired electricity generation will lead to the import of liquefied natural gas, where all international contracts are linked to the long term price of oil. For the first time in history we will lose control of our electricity prices and become dependent on international markets, just as we are already for petrol.
“John Key either needs to change National’s policy so it makes more sense or tell residents he is 100 percent for Think Big at Kaukapakapa.”
After 2015, there is insufficient domestic gas to supply a plant of this size on top of existing gas plants. So limited is its potential that the station does not rank on the Electricity Commission’s “committed” or “highly likely” lists of projects, and it only appears in one scenario – the “High Gas Discovery” scenario.
“Bad generals plan for the last war and Mr Key is a bad general if he is gambling on fossil fuel prices going down or the cavalry coming in the form of a nearby new gas area like Taranaki. Even if the Southland find announced today turns out to be significant there are no pipelines and unlikely to be for such a huge distance and any gas will be sold on the international market.
“I met a group of residents at the site last week and I should warn Mr Key they are angry about air pollution, the planned destruction of their rural environment and also that six of the resource consents applied for directly affect the small Kaukapakapa River with a proposal to take 2400 cubic metres of river water and discharge 1900 of heated waste-water back into it daily.”