CON­NECT­ING WITH THE LAND

Element - - Sponsor Case Study -

Thank­fully, these days a lot of large busi­nesses sup­port con­ser­va­tion projects. The spe­cial na­ture of Merid­ian's work gen­er­at­ing power from New Zealand's nat­u­ral re­sources makes this an in­te­gral part of its busi­ness.

Project River Re­cov­ery, launched in 1991 as an agree­ment be­tween Merid­ian's state-owned pre­de­ces­sor Elec­tri­corp and the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion is a great ex­am­ple. The project was en­vis­aged as a means to mit­i­gate the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of the six hy­dro power sta­tions in the Waitaki Scheme from Lake Pukaki to Waitaki.

Rob Young is DoC's Area Man­ager for Twizel and has known the project pretty much since its in­cep­tion. As some­one who has worked in con­ser­va­tion since he was still at school in the 1970s, you prob­a­bly don't get much of a tougher test of an en­vi­ron­men­tal project's sin­cer­ity and ef­fec­tive­ness.

"The hy­dro scheme has taken the wa­ter from rivers like the Pukaki be­cause the wa­ter that had owed into them had been di­verted into canals to drive the tur­bines," he says. "The pos­si­bil­ity of re­in­stat­ing some of the wa­ter was looked into, but the costs were sig­nif­i­cant and the con­ser­va­tion value was not that high. So they then looked at where they could spend the same sort of money and get a bet­ter con­ser­va­tion re­sult. This meant look­ing at other braided river sys­tems that were in good con­di­tion but needed pro­tec­tion."

The re­sult has been two decades of in­ten­sive weed con­trol over about 33,000 hectares of riverbed, preda­tor con­trol, and about 100 hectares of new wet­lands as well as re­search and com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion. This has just earned the project the 2011 Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment's Green Rib­bon Award for en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble large or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Rob says: "It has been a re­ally good re­la­tion­ship with good com­mu­ni­ca­tion through­out. There has al­ways been one per­son in the Merid­ian set-up that we li­aise with, they gen­er­ally come from an en­vi­ron­men­tal back­ground and have a good knowl­edge of things like the Resource Man­age­ment Act, so it works well."

It is now widely recog­nised that the fu­ture of re­new­able power in New Zealand can only be se­cured along­side con­ser­va­tion projects like this one, be­cause even the most eco-friendly sources of power have some im­pact on our en­vi­ron­ment.

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