The North Bank Tunnel Concept is a hydro generation proposal taking water from lake Waitaki and discharging it back into the Waitaki river about 34km downstream near Stonewall.

The consents lodged with Environment Canterbury are associated with the taking, diverting, using and discharging of the water.

Meridian Energy says it has adopted a staged approach to consenting to ensure that the water is available before millions of dollars are invested on detailed engineering investigations and to ensure the community has the opportunity to understand and have input into the concept as it develops.

It began consulting with the communities of the Lower Waitaki river in late March this year and will continue to consult on the water-only consents until a hearing is held next year.

‘The North Bank Tunnel Concept water consents are of great importance to Meridian,’ said Water Infrastructure Manager Tony McCormick. ‘With a potential generation capacity of 1100 to 1400GWh it remains one of the largest renewable generation opportunities available in New Zealand.’

It is expected that the consents will be heard along with other outstanding Waitaki catchment consent applications late next year.

Environment Canterbury has indicated that hearings may commence in October 2007. While the application is expected to be publicly notified in the first quarter of next year, Meridian will make copies of its application available shortly on CD and on its website.