4 Novemer 2009
Brownlee’s foot in mouth over West Coast dam
Gerry Brownlee’s comments on the Meridian Energy-backed Mokihinui River hydro-generation application confirm that he is
out of his depth in his portfolio, and that National does not understand how to plan for our country's future energy
security, Labour's Energy spokesperson Charles Chauvel says.
At a Grey Power meeting in Nelson on Monday, Brownlee announced that Mohikinui - still in the consenting process - would
not be proceeding, although he claimed that this was merely a 'personal view'. He went on to state a preference against
more wind power because of its visual effects, and indicated a desire to see more geothermal development instead.
“First, Ministers of the Crown just don't get to express 'personal views' about projects within their portfolios. Gerry
Brownlee will have been extensively briefed by officials on Mohikinui. Clearly he has been advised that there will be
issues with its consenting. It makes a mockery of the process to disclose that sort of advice in the way he has, without
notice to the parties and in an aside at a public meeting.
“Not keeping interested parties in the loop on major decisions is exceptionally poor process. It's sadly reminiscent of
this government’s recent handling of the viewing rights for the rugby world cup, climate change and ACC.
“Secondly, Gerry Brownlee's comments show that he doesn't have a plan for New Zealand's long-term energy security. To
achieve that security over the next 15 years while growing our advantage in renewable generation, we need a mix of fuel
sources as we phase out the burning of gas. More geothermal is a vital part of this - but significant new geothermal
plant is unlikely to be available immediately, which is why much more wind needs to continue to come on stream for the
next few years.
“The mix and phasing are the key. Getting those wrong - as Gerry Brownlee seems determined to do - will result in NZ
being hooked into on burning coal and imported gas to produce electricity while the rest of the world moves to more
renewable energy sources.
“All this is set out clearly in the NZ Energy Strategy. Gerry Brownlee needs to read this document - it should have
formed part of his most basic briefing on taking office. It would be a tragedy if we lost our renewable advantage - and
our future energy independence - because of the Minister's uninformed prejudice against more wind energy”, Charles