Auckland, Dec 15 – Greenpeace has invited Environment Minister Simon Upton to appear as a witness at a hearing this week on resource consent applications for a gasfired 360 megawatt power station at Otahuhu in South Auckland.
The environmental group wants Mr Upton to appear at the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) hearing to find out his opinion on a number of issues including the appropriateness of dealing with major carbon dioxide emissions at a regional level.
Greenpeace also wants Mr Upton to update the hearing on New Zealand’s performance in meeting its obligations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the likely effect of an increase in those emissions resulting from the Otahuhu power station.
A spokesman for Mr Upton said the minister would reply to Greenpeace in due course.
Greenpeace has also challenged Mr Upton to reconsider his decision not to call in resource consent applications for the proposed Contact Energy power station which will emit over 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
In comparison the region’s motor vehicles pour about 2.5 million tonnes of the gas into the atmosphere each year.
Greenpeace said Mr Upton’s decision showed he had made up his mind without due consideration of the issues.
Mr Upton told Greenpeace he would not call in or establish a board of inquiry to hear the applications as he did in 1993 with the 400 megawatt Stratford power station in Taranaki.
Mr Upton cited the experience gained by the board of inquiry into the Stratford station, saying that because of the information on record he saw little to be gained by a second inquiry.
Likewise the Ministry for the Environment is using the same argument for not lodging any submissions on the applications to the ARC.
Ministry deputy secretary Lindsay Gow said the ARC was seen as a competent authority to deal with the applications because it had already dealt with similar applications for the Mercury Energy power station at Southdown, also in South Auckland.
Mr Gow said the power station would be a highly efficient combined cycle natural gas-fuelled plant close to electricity consumers.
It would not contribute significantly to New Zealand carbon dioxide emission growth.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Adam Laidlaw said the organisation had legal advice that under the Resource Management Act Mr Upton could not use outcomes from the Stratford board of inquiry when considering whether or not to call in the Otahuhu applications.
Greenpeace had also unsuccessfully sought an adjournment of the ARC hearing to allow more time for proper consideration to be given to the environmental impacts of the power station "in the middle of Auckland."
Mr Laidlaw said New Zealand was heading for an increase of about 22 percent in carbon dioxide emissions by 2000 in breach of an agreement to hold emissions at the 1990 level.
NZPA NZH mel rap 15/12/96 19-52NZ