The Department appears to be trying to aid concessionaires to sneak through major damage in a ‘minor / non-notifiable’ variation
FMC and the NZ Canyoning Association are outraged after DOC again attempts to enable the expansion and increased environmental impact of a hydro-electricity scheme through the backdoor of a non-notified concession variation.
Griffin Creek is nationally significant canyoning location, located in the Taramakau Valley, near Greymouth.
It is staggering that DOC is again acting to minimize the input of the local conservation board and other stakeholders to favour the corporate interests, after an earlier similar attempt to dramatically increase water take was exposed by FMC and rejected.
It appears the concessionaire has dreamt up a new plan to push through the hydro scheme which was previously ‘uneconomically viable’ with a new variation proposal, which would result in much more damage to surrounding forest.
FMC and NZ Canyoning Association were informed late afternoon, 18th of May and given 5 working days to respond to a new variation application. Although specifics weren’t given a brief outline was given and can be summarised as folllows:
- re-routing the penstock pipeline through the surrounding native forest (rather than nearby private land),
- taking 8x the approved land (12m2 to 100m2),
- getting approval to cut down trees 2.5x the diameter (20cm to 50cm).
The Department went on to say:
Overall these changes have been assessed as minor in scale and interpreted by the Department to cause little to no change in effects from what is currently approved. Because of the minor nature of the changes sought, no public notification has been considered necessary for this variation.
For a non-notified concession variation, the Conservation act allows changes of only a “minor and technical nature”. These changes on their face suggest a significant increase of environmental impact, and consideration of the detail – were it available – seems likely to increase this impact even more. Back-door project creep after public notification may be standard practice in other development processes, but it is not acceptable in conservation law where the primary duty is the preservation of the environment.
FMC has supported NZCA’s request to the Department for specific information about the application under the Official Information Act and requested that DOC give reasonable time to reply after that information has been received. Support was given to the Canyon Association from Whitewater New Zealand, as kayakers also use the lower gorge, and the Federation International Canyonisme on behalf of the international canyoning community, demonstrating the high regard the site is held in by the wider community.
After a mainstream media story was published by Newsroom, the Department did reply that it had received the OIA request, and promised 10 working days to respond after the request was fulfilled.
We have also reminded DOC of all the reasons why granting the concession in the first place was not in accordance with the Conservation Act and therefore should be declined outright. (See our press release Mar 2019) You may also like to read a full chronology of the Griffin issue on the NZ Canyoning Association website.
FMC remains committed to ensure the proper process is followed, and the legal requirements of the Conservation Act are upheld. Together with the NZ Canyoning Association, FMC awaits the Departments reply to see the full extent of the ‘minor’ variation proposed.