Following hot on the heels of the LAWF report, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has released her latest report titled "Hydroelectricity or wild rivers? Climate change versus natural heritage".
While the first 49 pages of the report is devoted to covering the history of hydro in New Zealand and outlining the current consenting process, the last chapter contains some rather controversial recommendations for further investigation including:
- Amendment of the NPS for Freshwater Management and Renewable Energy Generation to better recognise the value of wild and scenic rivers.
- Hearing of applications for WCOs by a board of inquiry via the EPA process with a 9 month decision timeframe.
- Reclassification of DOC land to ensure adequate protection of wild and scenic rivers.
- Transfer of the administration of riverbeds located within conservation land from LINZ to DOC.
- For developments involving DOC land that either the DOC concession must be obtained first or the DOC concession and resource consent applications are heard together.
Given the extremely broad nature of the recommendations, the effects are likely to impact a much wider range of activities than just hydro development. The report suggests that, in relation to the first two bullet points, either the Ministry for the Environment or the LAWF could investigate these matters further. Given the controversial nature of the changes proposed and the problems currently being experienced by the LAWF, it is doubtful whether the LAWF is the right body to investigate these issues further.