Hapu has cause to be happy if (as is reported today) it now owns the Kaipara Habour

There's plenty of room for a few hundred generators.

Well bugger me, Alf muttered while browsing through his Herald.

He feared that maybe he had done a Rip Van Winkle, dropped off to sleep after sinking one whisky too many, and woken up several years later.

And lo and behold – things had changed (as, of course, they would have done).

But some changes would be the stuff of nightmares.

In this case, it seemed the foreshore legilsation had been passed, claims to ownership of chunks of our coastline had been sorted out, and Kaipara Harbour was now owned by the local Maori.

So what triggered Alf’s consternation?

It was news that –

A Northland hapu hopes to galvanise public support with a meeting to oppose a power-generation project in its harbour.

The hapu in question is an outfit called the Te Uri O Hau Settlement Trust.

It plans a public meeting at the Dargaville Town Hall on Monday to nut out a plan of action – presumably – after the Environment Court last month gave Crest Energy approval to put up to 200 marine turbine generating units in the Kaipara Harbour.

It’s a bloody big harbour, the way Alf recalls it, perfectly capable of accommodating more than a few such generating units.

Mind you, this would depend on the size of the units.

So how big will they be?

A story at Stuff a week or so ago helps to gives us an idea –

Turbines the size of small houses will be sunk to the bottom of the Kaipara Harbour.

But it’s not as easy as that.

The Environment Court has allowed the placement of the turbines with some rather important conditions.

One of them requires Crest Energy to use just three turbines for the first two years of its environmental monitoring and evaluation.

At the time the ruling was delivered, Te Uri O Hau expressed disappointment at the Environment Court’s decision but was pleased with “real gains” achieved in the consent conditions.

“Although we are pleased that the court has placed additional restrictions on the project, we remain concerned that the conditions do not go far enough because we believe there are inherent risks in a project of this scale,” Te Uri O Hau chairwoman Mihi Watene says.

The iwi welcomed the requirement of only three turbines initially being installed, rather than 20 as originally proposed.

Then there are the requirements for Crest to monitor the effects for at least one year after the first installation and that the public be involved in the Northland Regional Council’s consideration of whether to allow further stages to be developed.

“A project of this scale has never been undertaken before – in New Zealand or the world,” Ms Watene says.

Dunno what we are supposed to make of that remark.

When a bloke lit a fire for the first time, it had never been done before.

That wasn’t a reason to stop it.

And when the first Maori set sail from wherever and finished up in New Zealand, it hadn’t been done before.

It’s a bloody good thing there was no Environment Court to put the kaibosh on things in those days, eh?

Crest Energy company director Anthony Hopkins sounds reassuring – he said various turbine designs have been tested in many places.

Te Uri o Hau – by the way – is a Northland hapu of Ngati Whatua which says its area of interest is located in the Northern Kaipara region.

The tribe has settled its historical grievances with the Crown and says it is developing the future for its people.

But will it be laying claim to the Kaipara Harbour?

It’s one of the largest harbours in the world, covering 947 square kilometres (366 sq mi) at high tide, with 409 square kilometres exposed as mudflats and sandflats at low tide.

The harbour shoreline is about 800 kilometres long.

Crest Energy was given resource consent in 2008 to install about 200 underwater tidal turbines in the harbour, which would use the substantial tidal flows moving in and out every day near the harbour mouth to produce electricity for approximately 250,000 homes.

Mrs Grumble consulted Wikipedia and tells Alf that –

The peak level of generation for the combined turbines is about 200 MW. This exceeds the projected peak electricity needs of Northland. It would have environmental benefits in offsetting annual carbon emissions from a thermal-based, gas turbine generator of 575,000 tonnes of carbon.

It looks like the hapu prefers carbon emissions.

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