Power play in the Waikato – Steve Meier is not the only farmer Transpower must settle with

Alf sympathises with farmers in the Waikato who are warning that an $824 million pylon project due to start next month may lead to standoffs between farmers and Transpower.

He’s not so sure about Matangi farmer Steve Meier, who single-handedly seems to have kept thousands of people without power the other day because of his run-in with Transpower.

As the Herald reports today –

A fire in a shelterbelt of about 50 of Mr Meier’s pines on Monday, believed to have started when lines above them arced, cut power to more than 50,000 homes from Waikato to Cape Reinga.

When Alf first saw him on the TV news the other night, Meier looked decidedly bellicose – rabid, even.

He was in no way willing to cooperate with Transpower in fixing the bloody line problem and getting the power flowing again. Not until the cops moved in.

He’s not the sort of bloke you would want to tangle with, especially if you knew how many guns he owned.

But today he is gracious enough to say sorry.

Mr Meier yesterday apologised for any inconvenience his protest had caused.

“Our position has always been that we will allow any trimming or other proposed work on our property provided any legal requirements are met. We, like the rest of New Zealand, are disappointed that an obvious routine maintenance work item was neglected to the point where thousands of New Zealanders lost power.

“We apologise for any offence we may have given and hope that this explanation is accepted. We cannot accept responsibility for TPNZ’s failure to do routine trimming work which was the direct cause of the outage. We accept that we have an obligation to act responsibly and within the law and will do so at all times.

“I’m not a lawbreaker, yet I’m treated like a terrorist.”

The NZ Herald today tells us Meier remains adamant he has no problem with the grid operator working on the high-voltage lines on his property. On the other hand he says Transpower has acted unlawfully by not warning him it was carrying out maintenance.

He is also seeking compensation for the lines on his land.

Farm leaders are warning of more to come.

Stew Wadey, of Waikato Federated Farmers, yesterday said the new North Island Grid Upgrade Project could create similar problems.

The lines will be put up between Whakamaru, near Tokoroa, and Otahuhu in South Auckland, Transpower yesterday said it had bought about 80 properties of the 314 affected by the upgrade, with the remaining landowners being compensated.

However, Mr Wadey said he wouldn’t be surprised that when work started, landowners would not allow contractors on to their properties.

“I have told the Hamilton area commander of police it is a serious issue of mine. A lot of landowners who are under similar strife and getting unfair deals are taking a similar stance to Mr Meier.”

We can’t quarrel with Transpower when it says the upgrade is needed to increase the capacity of electricity to the upper North Island which has experienced several issues with supply in recent years.

The new lines will be capable of carrying 400kV but will initially be operated at 220kV and cranked up by 2030.

Transpower spokeswoman Rebecca Wilson said the company was yet to negotiate a deal with about 100 landowners for the big upgrade.

“We’ve certainly got a few negotiations to get through.”

And it certainly seems fair that Transpower pays the landowners for whatever it sticks on their properties and for right of access.

What’s a fair price is the issue.Transpower must not be miserable, but nor should it be too generous. At the end of the day it’s power users everywhere who will pick up the tab.

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