THE PLAN

Central Otago Mirror - - LAKE HAYES A&P SHOW -

A com­pany has am­bi­tious plans to pipe glacial wa­ter from rugged South West­land moun­tains di­rectly onto tanker ships headed over­seas.

Part of a re­mote West Coast beach would ef­fec­tively be­come a wa­ter-ex­port fa­cil­ity, with bil­lions of litres of wa­ter each year taken from the edge of a na­tional park, down a re­mote moun­tain­side and onto ships wait­ing off­shore.

The large scale of the Jack­son Bay project, which has been in the works for around 25 years and is com­ing closer to fruition, has raised eye­brows, as has the lim­ited pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion.

Okuru En­ter­prises, a con­sor­tium of West Coast lo­cals, has many of the re­source con­sents needed for the project.

It in­cludes per­mis­sion to take and ex­port 800,000 tonnes of wa­ter – about 800 mil­lion litres – each month.

A hear­ing next month will de­cide if the project gets other needed re­source con­sents, in­clud­ing per­mis­sion to build its stor­age fa­cil­ity at Neil’s Beach.

The wa­ter would be taken from a dam at Tun­ing Fork Creek on the edge of Mount Aspir­ing Na­tional Park.

The wa­ter orig­i­nates in glacial lakes high in the South­ern Alps and flows down the braided Arawhata River and into the sea.

While the wa­ter in­take is tech­ni­cally out­side the na­tional park, a web­site as­so­ci­ated with the project uses the park as a sell­ing point, say­ing the wa­ter orig­i­nates ’’from a pro­tected UNESCO World Her­itage site‘‘.

It refers to an ‘‘un­lim­ited’’ sup­ply due to the area’s high an­nual rain and snow­fall and wa­ter pu­rity that is ‘‘in­ter­na­tion­ally un­sur­passed‘‘. A 14-hectare ‘‘wa­ter-ex­port com­plex’’ would be con­structed on pri­vate land at Neil’s Beach, a tiny com­mu­nity be­neath Mount Aspir­ing Na­tional Park.

Wa­ter would be fun­nelled from the dam down 12 kilo­me­tres of mostly un­der­ground pipe, which would wind down the moun­tain across De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DOC) land, the Alpine Fault, and be­neath a pub­lic road to the ex­port fa­cil­ity.

It would fill up to six large hold­ing tanks, ca­pa­ble of hold­ing 160 mil­lion litres of wa­ter, be­fore be­ing pumped through an un­der­sea pipe onto tanker ships an­chored about 5.5km off Jack­son Bay. While most of the in­fra­struc­ture is on pri­vate land, the dam and sev­eral kilo­me­tres of pipe are on the DOC es­tate. In the 1990s the de­part­ment granted the com­pany a con­ces­sion to build its pipe, which is still valid.

Okuru En­ter­prises chair­man Peter Roselli said that the com­pany had paid more than $100,000 for the con­ces­sion over the years, de­spite not tak­ing any wa­ter. It had also re­cently been con­sult­ing with DOC, which would con­sider the project’s im­pacts once all con­sents had been ap­proved.

Roselli said it had taken many years to get to this point due to the scale of the op­er­a­tion. There were ‘‘quite a num­ber’’ of groups in­ter­ested in buy­ing the wa­ter, he said. ‘‘It takes a long, long time to get all the con­sents. If in­deed all our con­sents are ap­proved, we can then go back to the in­ter­ested par­ties.’’

He as­sured peo­ple there would be ‘‘vir­tu­ally no en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts’’ and the wa­ter’s source was sus­tain­able; a NIWA re­port dated Fe­bru­ary 2016 said the project’s long-term im­pact on wa­ter lev­els would be min­i­mal. The com­pany’s ap­pli­ca­tion said the project would cre­ate be­tween seven and 10 jobs. Roselli said it would also cre­ate ex­port in­come for New Zealand and be an en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly op­er­a­tion.

‘‘The West Coast of the South Is­land is hav­ing a very bad trot, eco­nom­i­cally. Coal mines are clos­ing down, the ce­ment works have closed down. It’s world-class wa­ter. The world needs pure wa­ter and it’s get­ting to the stage where it’s go­ing to be­come very se­ri­ous in the very near fu­ture.’’

SUP­PLIED

Mount Aspir­ing Na­tional Park.

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