Saturday, April 11, 2015

River Park Sale Agreed

River Park sale agreed
Saturday 11 April 2015
Otago Daily Times

Contact Energy and the Red Bridge River Park Trust have agreed on sale conditions for a parcel of Luggate land sought by the charitable trust to develop a community river park.

The resolution follows more than a year of discussions between long-term tenant of the land and trustee Lewis Verduyn-Cassels and Contact over the proposed sale of the 0.4ha property.

Mr Verduyn-Cassels said the trust was grateful for the support of the Wanaka Community Board and the many donors who had made the project possible.

As the original proposal for the river park included neighbouring land that was sold to other individuals, the trust would look at revising the project plan to reflect the changed ownership.

As part of the agreed sale process, the trust will pay a portion of the market sale price of the land up front and further settlement is due within the next five years.

Contact is also finalising arrangements to gift a separate 1.9ha block of land next to the Luggate Bridge to the local community, most probably through the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Contact has been progressively selling parcels of land it owns in the Clutha region in recent years, following an announcement in 2012 that it was no longer going ahead with a proposed hydro generation development in the area.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Contact And Trust Reach Agreement

Contact and River Park Trust pleased to reach agreement  
Thursday 9 April 2015

Contact and trustees for The Red Bridge River Park Trust this week have agreed sale conditions for a parcel of Luggate land sought by the charitable Trust to develop a community river park involving native fauna and flora restoration and freshwater ecology. The positive resolution follows over a year of discussions between long term tenant of the land and trustee Lewis Verduyn-Cassels and Contact over the proposed sale of the 0.4 ha property.

“We’re very pleased to reach an agreement that enables both parties to move forward positively, with the Trust able to now explore its plans to develop the community river park,” says Contact’s Generation & Development Project Manager, Neil Gillespie.

“We are grateful to the many people behind the scenes who have contributed their support to this agreement. The Wanaka Community Board, and numerous donors, have all made this project possible,” said River Park Trustee, Lewis Verduyn-Cassels.”

“As the original proposal for the river park included adjacent land that was sold to other individuals, the Trustees will be looking at revising the project plan to reflect the changed ownership. We literally have decades of work ahead of us as we progressively restore and enhance the Red Bridge area.”

As part of the agreed sale process the Trust will pay a portion of the market sale price of the land up front, with further settlement due within the next five years. Separate to the sale to the Trust, Contact is in the process of finalising arrangements to gift a 1.9 ha block of land adjacent to the Luggate Bridge to the local community, most likely through the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Contact has been progressively selling parcels of land it owns in the Clutha region in recent years, following an announcement in 2012 that it was no longer progressing a proposed Hydo generation development in the area.

About Red Bridge River Park Trust
The purpose of the Red Bridge River Park Trust is to create and manage a river park and native recovery centre on riverside land at the Luggate Red Bridge, on the Clutha Mata-Au River, for the benefit of the community in perpetuity.


Friday, January 30, 2015

'Good progress' in talks on riverside land

'Good progress' in talks on riverside land
By Lucy Ibbotson, on Friday 30 January 2015
Otago Daily Times

An agreement over the future of a piece of riverside land near Luggate wanted for a conservation park is still several weeks away.

Negotiations have been ongoing for almost a year between Contact Energy, the owners of a 0.4ha site next to the Clutha River at the Luggate Red Bridge, and Lewis Verduyn-Cassels, who established the Red Bridge River Park Trust to help realise his vision for a community conservation area on the land.

The trust was given several extended deadlines to raise $300,000 to buy the land, before entering into private discussions with Contact towards the end of last year.

Contact's trading, development and geothermal resources project manager, Neil Gillespie, said this week the power company was ''still talking'' with Mr Verduyn-Cassels.

''We're making good progress.

''In the next three to four weeks we should be closer to knowing where we're at.''


Friday, November 21, 2014

Cycleway Talks With Landowners Start

Cycleway talks with landowners start
By Mark Price, on Friday 21 November 2014
Otago Daily Times

Discussions are under way between the Upper Clutha Tracks Trust and about 20 landowners along the Clutha River over the possible route for a cycleway linking Wanaka and Cromwell.

Trustee Tom Rowley told the Otago Daily Times this week the trust had received funding from the Central Lakes Trust to carry out a feasibility study into extending by about 45km the existing river track, which ends at Luggate at the Wanaka end and Lowburn at the Cromwell end.

''At the moment we are trying to meet as many of the landowners as we can and talk it through with them. That's a bit of an involved process, really.''

Mr Rowley said discussions were going ''pretty well''.

''For the most part, we are getting a very good reception from the landowners but we have got a few to work through yet.''

Mr Rowley said some landowners already had a plan for the cycleway through their properties when the company carrying out the feasibility study arrived.

''I've been warning [landowners] that we are wanting to meet with them and they have had time to think about it. So, some of them have been outstanding really.''

Mr Rowley said the track would be fenced where necessary.

The intention was to ensure the track required as little maintenance as possible.

''It's a big factor in what we are trying to do.''

He expected it would take ''a lot of money'' to build the track and it would probably be built in stages.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Purchase Good Despite Shock Cost

Purchase 'good result' despite shock cost
By Marjorie Cook, on Wednesday 1 October 2014
The Southland Times

After lengthy secret negotiations, the Department of Conservation yesterday announced the Nature Heritage Fund had spent $935,000 on 164ha of Contact Energy land near the Luggate Red Bridge to add to the public conservation estate.

Emeritus professor of botany Sir Alan Mark, of Dunedin, welcomed the purchase as significant but questioned whether taxpayers should have had to pay that much.

"The sum involved of $935,000 sounds a lot to me.

"That must be current land valuations . . .

"The end result is good but the means still leaves a lot to be required," Mark said.

Many other people signed an open letter to Contact Energy recently, suggesting that, among other things, it could discount the purchase price because of the substantial profits the company had made from electricity developments on the Clutha River.

The announcement was still pleasing and he was surprised it had not been made by the minister of conservation before the election.

"It is certainly quite a significant area and there are no doubts it has very high conservation values," he said.
DOC's Wanaka conservation services manager Chris Sydney said getting the land was a great outcome for conservation.

"The Upper Clutha Basin is recognised as an outstanding natural landscape with biodiversity features of national, regional and local importance," Sydney said.

The Nature Heritage Fund purchase was for some but not all of the properties Contact Energy decided in 2012 it no longer required for dam building. Some sites have significant historical or recreational value while others have important biodiversity values.

Sydney said the combined values of the land meant they were considered to be of national importance.

The properties provided river access and included significant river terraces and dryland vegetation.

Eight threatened and uncommon plant species and several historical features were contained on the land.

The sites also had high strategic value next to marginal strips along the Clutha/ Mata-Au River, Sydney said.

The Nature Heritage Fund is a contestable ministerial fund that seeks to protect New Zealand ecosystems.
It has received 1352 applications since its inception in 1990, protecting 340,780 hectares of indigenous ecosystems.
It has spent $158.45 million so far (about $465 per hectare).
Source: 2013 DOC annual report

Where: 13km east of Wanaka, on the true left of the Clutha River.
What is protected: goldmining archaeological sites, dry-land terrace vegetation, and a "national critical" ecosystem.
Endangered plants include: Annual forget-me-not (Myosotis brevis, status – nationally vulnerable), mousetail (Myosurus minimus ssp novae-zelandiae, status – nationally endangered), Olearia lineata (status – declining), and Cushion pimelea (Pimelea sericeovillosa ssp pulvinaris, status – declining). 


Friday, August 8, 2014

Cromwell Could Become A Cycling Hub

By Lynda van Kempen, on Friday 8 August 2014
Otago Daily Times

Cromwell could become ''the hub'' of new cycle trail networks if a proposed Luggate to Cromwell trail is successful, the trail promoters say.

The Upper Clutha Tracks Trust was given a grant of $25,000 by the Central Lakes Trust this week for a feasibility study into the proposed 40km trail.

Tracks trustee and treasurer John Wellington said the proposed trail would connect the Upper Clutha trail network to Cromwell and tie in with the wider Central Otago cycle trail network.

It would link with the proposed Cromwell to Gibbston trail and the proposed Cromwell to Clyde one as well, he said.

''Bit by bit, various groups have taken up the challenge of forming trails along the Clutha River and we're working our way towards Cromwell,'' Mr Wellington said.

When the proposed trails were completed, Cromwell would be the ''hub'' of the new trail network, he said.

The Luggate to Cromwell trail was mostly within the Central Otago district, on the true right of the Clutha River, and he believed the feasibility study would show it was ''do-able''.

''Then it will be a matter of getting other parties on side, talking to adjoining landowners and starting fundraising.''

The aim would be to have the trail on public land where possible, but some of the route would cross private land, so the trust would have to canvass landowners and negotiate with them.

Mr Wellington said the feasibility study could be completed by November and would include estimates of the trail cost.

''It's a longer trail than we've built previously, but it won't have much in the way of structures, so that will make it cheaper, but we really don't even have a ballpark figure at the moment.''

Unlike the trails on the ''Great Rides'' national cycle network, part-funded by the Government, this trail would have a ''lower scale finish'' and was likely to be 1.5m wide, narrower than trails on the national network, which were 2.5m to 3m wide. That would make it cheaper to develop.

''As soon as the feasibility study gives the green light, we'd look at getting it under way, maybe doing it in stages if we need to,'' Mr Wellington said.

Among the other grants by the Central Lakes Trust in its latest round of funding were $1500 for the Wanaka Preschool Early Childhood Centre, for two additional shade sails, and $4750 to the Drybread Cemetery Trust for a new concrete burial strip for headstones and the creation of 40 new graves. The Alexandra Musical Society was also granted a guarantee against loss of $7500 to enable it to stage the musical All Shook Up next month.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Conservation Group Aims To Build Unity

Conservation group aims to build unity

A task force has been set up in Wanaka to create more co-ordination and collaboration between the dozens of groups each working on their own conservation projects.

Chairwoman of the newly formed Upper Clutha Conservation Taskforce, Megan Williams, this week told the Otago Daily Times the task force was the result of a public meeting in May held as part of the region's Shaping our Future process.

It was attended by various conservation groups ''just to try and get some vision and strategy around what people were doing and encourage more collaboration'', Ms Williams said.

Data collected from the meeting was being developed into the task force's terms of reference, and a ''draft vision'' was being formed using existing material as a starting point.

''We're just trying to think long-term and lead the groups to develop a shared vision,'' Ms Williams said.
Butterfields Wetlands next to the Hawea River, near Albert Town, had three different conservation groups working on it, ''which haven't actually agreed on what they want the place to look like in the future''.

One group was planting trees and another was planning to build a track.

There were also five groups working in the Matukituki Valley and ''they haven't really been collaborating''.

''So I believe since the meeting in May a group of them have got together ... It's just encouraging a little bit more collaboration there to get more done.''

Long term, everyone agreed on the need for ''pristine water and pristine air'', Ms Williams said.
But the question was how to ensure those things were achieved.

Asked about the prospect of another 1400 woodburners being installed in the proposed Northlake subdivision of Wanaka, Ms Williams said the task force would ''try and stay out of the political process at that level and really try to stay big-picture on conservation issues''.

''All we are looking at doing is leading a discussion with the Upper Clutha groups to develop a shared vision so that everyone can work together.''

It was hoped to have a conservation strategy prepared before the end of the year.

Already it seemed clear more water, soil and air monitoring needed to be undertaken.

''Whether that's done by volunteers or whether we do that by lobbying the local authorities - that's the type of action we will be hoping for.''

Data was needed to establish ''base lines, so that we know where we are at'', Ms Williams said.

The task force would not be taking over the roles of other conservation groups but would be complementing what they did.

Ms Williams, originally from Dunedin, has a background in tourism, and teaches sustainable tourism at the Queenstown Resort College.

The members of the task force are: John Wellington, Robbie Lawton, Anne Steven, Andrew Penniket, Calum MacLeod, Natalie Astin, Alexa Forbes and representatives from the Lake Wanaka Guardians and Department of Conservation.


Clyde Dam Highly Problematic

Since the filling of the Dunstan reservoir behind the Clyde dam was completed in 1993, the Clyde dam controversy has faded in the minds of most New Zealanders. But the woes of the last 'think big' project have not gone away. Despite extensive and costly mitigation measures, issues remain regarding gorge instability, faultlines, and reservoir sediment build-up.

The Cairmuir-Dunstan Fault cuts across the gorge just above the dam, and the River Channel Fault disects the dam and the powerhouse. The discovery of the River Channel Fault came as a surprise to dam workers, who uncovered the micro-fractured rock running in a wide band along the riverbed. Obviously, fissured rock is not suitable for dam foundations. The first solution was to pump vast amounts of slurry concrete into the fault, but concerns mounted over the extent and depth of the faultline, and the likely futility of 'dental' concrete.

Finally, experts were called in to determine the extent of the fault issue. It was calculated that the River Channel Fault was 12-15km deep. This lead to a dam re-design in 1982 (during which a sluice channel was omitted leading to later modifications that reduced the dam's MW output by one-third). Subsequent investigations carried out by a team of some 40 geologists revealed serious instability issues throughout the gorge. The result was an incredibly expensive gorge stabilization programme, costing $936 million dollars (2005 value), resulting in the total cost of the project blowing-out to $1.4-1.8 billion dollars. The exact cost is unavailable or unknown, suggesting the true cost could be even higher.

There was considerable doubt over whether or not the dam would be safe, but in the end the government of the day, under Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, refused to admit that the project had been botched, and it was finished, complete with a controversial 'slip-joint' to accommodate earthquakes up to, supposedly, 7 on the Richter Scale.

The 'slip-joint' was hailed as an engineering achievement, but one of New Zealand's most respected geo-technical scientists at the time, Gerald Lensen, insisted that it was designed incorrectly, because the River Channel Fault is 'tensional' (pulling apart) and not 'lateral' (slipping sideways). Needless to say, this fact has been kept quiet ever since.

Now, according to GNS scientists, the 'big one' is overdue along the Alpine Fault (bigger than the 7.8 Fiordland quake in July 2009). Meantime, the 6,500 measuring and monitoring stations quietly observe the landslide movements, reduced but not stopped, and visible silting up continues in the Kawarau Arm at an alarming rate estimated to be 1.46 million cubic metres per year, building up the reservoir bed profile by an estimated 1.85m annually.

The Decline of Large Hydro

In the 21st century, energy that is "renewable" is defined as energy from a source that is both naturally replenishing and environmentally safe and sustainable. The term “new” renewable energy has also been used to define the latest wave of renewable technologies that are truly environmentally sustainable.

By such standards, hydropower over 10 MW is no longer considered renewable because the negative impacts of large hydropower outweigh the so-called renewable benefits, which have inherent limitations.

In New Zealand, we are told that to maintain our present society and standard of living we need a minimum increase in power availability of 2.5% per annum (peak power), with 170 MW of new generation added each year. Based on this figure, we would need the equivalent of one Luggate dam (86 MW) every 6 months, or one Tuapeka dam (350 MW) every 25 months, or another Clyde dam (432 MW) every 29 months. Clearly, this is not a credible long-term solution.

World-wide, large hydropower declined in the 1990s because of mounting opposition that culminated in the World Commission on Dams report (2000), which acknowledged that large dams do not meet best practice guidelines in the water and energy sector. The global recession spurred more large dam projects, especially in developing countries, but the tide has turned and large hydro is again in decline as new renewable technologies sweep the world.

The intrinsic problems associated with large dams have long been glossed over. Hydroelectricity is often falsely promoted as cheap and reliable. While the operating costs of hydroelectric dams can be relatively low, their construction costs are extremely high, running into the billions of dollars for major projects. They are also prone to cost overruns. The WCD (World Commission on Dams, 2000) found that on average dams cost 56% more than forecast. And 55% of the hydroelectric projects studied by the WCD generated less power than planners promised.

New Zealand's Clyde dam is an obvious example of disastrous cost overruns. According to the public record, the 1982 winning bid from the joint venture of W. Williamson & Co. of Christchurch and Ed. Zublin AG of Stuttgart, was $102.6 million. Ten years later when the dam began producing power, the cost had climbed to $1.4 – 1.8 billion. Conversely, the planned generation of 612 MW had fallen to an actual capacity of 432 MW.

Typically, construction and mitigation costs are under-estimated, long-term costs are ignored, the value of the proposed dam and mitigation measures are inflated, while the value of the current and potential benefits from the existing environment are under-reported.

The proponents of large dams also invariably claim that large hydropower is "green" energy. However, the carbon footprint of a large-scale hydro project is anything but "green". A comparative study at the University of Auckland found that large hydro has a full-life carbon footprint that is 2.5 times larger than that of tidal energy.

A similar comparative study in the U.K. found that in terms of grams of CO2 equivalent per kWh of electricity generated, large hydro in the U.K. comes in with a carbon footprint 2 to 6 times larger than that of wind power. Specifically, large hydro has been measured at 10-30gCO2eq/kWh while wind has been measured at only 4.64gCO2eq/kWh, the lowest except for nuclear (Carbon Footprint of Electricity Generation, 2006).

It is easy to understand why large dams rate so poorly. For example, the Clyde dam contains 1 million cubic metres of concrete, equivalent to about 3 million tonnes. Manufacturing one tonne of cement requires 4.7 million BTU’s of energy, which is the amount contained in about 170 litres of oil or 190 kilograms of coal. Obviously, this combined with emissions from machinery involved in earthworks for foundations, roading, terrain forming, landslide mitigation, and through the loss of river corridor carbon sink forests or vegetation, adds up to an enormous carbon footprint.

There are over 54,000 large dams in the world, some 5,000 of which are over 50 years old. The typical design-life of such dams is 80 years, and an increasing number of old dams are being classified as high risk. It is a telling fact that more dams are being decommissioned than built in the U.S., but dam owners typically avoid decommissioning issues and try to evade the considerable costs associated with dam removal and river restoration. This scenario points to a looming dam safety crisis.

In the past, the benefits of large dams were viewed as outweighing their obvious short and long-term environmental impacts. That has changed.

Large hydropower once represented the epitome of 20th Century technology and a passport to prosperity, projecting a misguided belief that Nature could be controlled without consequences. In the 21st Century, we face a new reality, for which 20th Century energy solutions are unacceptable.

Roxburgh Dam Decommissioning?

The Roxburgh dam was commissioned in 1956, and it is New Zealand's oldest concrete gravity dam. Such dams have a design lifespan of 80-100 years, but the actual lifespan of a dam depends on the rate at which its reservoir fills with sediment. Assessing the remaining life of a dam and reservoir is complex, but reservoir flooding events indicate that time is running out.

When other issues are added to the picture, questions must be asked.

The Roxburgh dam - like the Clyde dam, has faultine and landslide issues that are potentially catastrophic (something which has been kept quiet). However, when the Roxburgh dam was built, there was minimal geotechnical investigation and mitigation undertaken, despite obvious evidence of major landslides in the Roxburgh Gorge, notably at Island Basin.

But reservoir sedimentation is the most problematic issue. In fact, within 15 years of the dam's commissioning, the dam's two low level sluice gates were inoperable, and since then the silt burden has filled much of the Roxburgh reservoir reaching back to Alexandra. In 1995, ECNZ estimated that 1.5 million cubic metres of silt had entered the Roxburgh reservoir every year before the Clyde dam was built, and that a total 50 million cubic metres of silt had accumulated in the reservoir, raising the bed profile 'considerably'. Attempts to 'flush' the silt have had little effect, and have not reversed this process. This is probably because of the 'Gates of the Gorge,' a narrow bottleneck just below Alexandra.

As a result, Alexandra has become flood-prone, and has installed flood defence walls along the river. But even these will not be high enough to prevent future flooding, because the riverbed will gradually keep rising. It was thought that by building the Clyde dam that this sedimentation problem would be largely solved, but some silt still gets through to continue choking the reservoir and river, and the Manuherikia River still contributes silt when it is high.

Efforts continue to "buy time" for the Roxburgh dam. More "flushing" will only move some of the sediment load further toward the dam. (Flushing has failed to remove sediment wherever it has been tried, including on the Colorado.) Physically removing millions of cubic metres of sediment is not practicable because of the costs involved. An interim measure is to remove some sediment from the Manuherikia confluence, and also from the Galloway area, but this does not address the major constriction at the 'Gates of the Gorge.'

The most desperate strategy is to raise the operating level of the Roxburgh reservoir, and this was done in 2009 when a rise of .6m was consented. While this allows water to reach the dam more easily, it also increases the risks associated with flooding events, both at Alexandra and the dam. In the life cycle of a dam, this is the "Russian roulette phase."

The dam owners and the Crown must face up to the fact that the Roxburgh dam and reservoir will not last forever, and that enormous risks are imposed on communities in the meantime. A feasibility study is needed to determine the most effective decommissioning and de-silting methodology. Where such dam removal projects have been undertaken overseas, the costs as a proportion of construction, range from 35% to 150%.

However, since there has been no provision for the ultimate decommissioning of the Roxburgh dam (typical of the hydropower industry), there is something of a head-in-the-sediment policy on this issue.

Questions should be asked, including the most difficult question of all ... when the time comes to decommission the dam, who will pay?
© Clutha River Guardian 2009-2015