Pioneer Energy Ltd has recently started the construction of a road and hydro scheme in the Matiri Valley, Tasman Region. Since the resource consent and concession for the hydro development by Tasman District Council (TDC) and the Department of Conservation (DOC) went through several years ago, many recreational users might not be aware of the background about this project.
New Zealand Energy Ltd applied for a resource consent from TDC and a concession from DOC to build a hydroelectric scheme on Lake Matiri in early 2009. The application to TDC was opposed by DOC, Forest & Bird and the Whitewater Canoe Club. A summary of all submissions to TDC can be found here and was the subject of a news report. Another document released by TDC gives an overview of the project including some engineering plans and maps.
FMC wrote a submission on the application for a concession to DOC; FMC’s submission was neither against nor in favour of the proposed hydro scheme. It should be noted that access up the Matiri Valley is on private (freehold) land, and that securing public access to Lake Matiri was one of the conditions of the application.
Permits for the construction and operation of the hydro scheme were granted by TDC and by DOC, the latter in May 2011, as outlined in DOC’s press release. The project has since been bought by Pioneer Energy Ltd. A copy of the concession to Pioneer Energy can be found here.
Status of the land
Lake Matiri and 1km of the valley downstream of it are on stewardship land (Lake Matiri Conservation Area), shaded yellow in the map above, surrounded by Kahurangi National Park (shaded green in the map above) on three sides. Lake Matiri itself is a Wildlife Refuge under the Wildlife Act 1953. The Matiri Valley downstream of the Conservation Area is freehold land, shaded red in the map above.
Lake Matiri Track crosses freehold land. Public access up Lake Matiri Track is guaranteed as part of the conditions of New Zealand Energy Ltd’s concession from DOC. The access road currently being built is also on private land.
What is happening in 2019?
Works for the construction of the hydro scheme have started in 2019. An update on progress and road closures can be found on Pioneer’s website.
To FMC’s request for information about how DOC is monitoring the construction, John Wotherspoon, DOC Operations Manager for Rotoiti / Nelson Lakes District responded the following (dated 1st May 2019):
“The access road development is not on public conservation land so our interest until recently has been limited to the potential effects on protected wildlife, in this case bats, and I can assure you that they have done a very good job in that regard. This includes having running bat monitoring apparatus, having a certified bat expert check any trees likely to hold bats and taking these trees down with an arborist.
In the last three weeks they have moved onto the public conservation lands and completed the approved felling of the larger trees (potential bat habitat) along the penstock route before this work is curtailed by the bats going into hibernation for the winter. This work has been overseen by a contracted conservation supervisor reporting to our office (at the expense of Pioneer Energy) and again has all been done by arborists in the presence of a certified bat expert.
No further work aside for survey and hand tool work will be undertaken until a number of additional plans are provided by Pioneer Energy Ltd, including but not limited to an ‘erosion, sediment management plan’, ‘pest control and land rehabilitation plan’, ‘aquatic fauna management plan, ‘landscape management plan’ etc – all to be approved by the Department. As far as tramper access, this should be maintained throughout construction with just short duration (e.g. up to an hour) restrictions for safety when blasting. The road will be open as a two wheel drive road as far as the West Branch Matiri within a few weeks which will be a big improvement from the long standing situation. Post construction there will be a much better track through to the lake.”
Photo at top: Rainbow over Lake Matiri. Photo (c) Mitchell Everly, FMC individual supporter