PROJECT AQUA, THE CANAL-BASED hydro development of New Zealand’s state-owned Meridian Energy, has been granted the special status of a network utility operation by Environment Minister Marian Hobbs. This means Meridian, New Zealand’s biggest electricity generator, can apply to the minister for ‘requiring authority status’, which could allow it to designate and compulsorily acquire the land it needs in the Lower Waitaki river to build its billion-dollar power project.

Project Aqua, located on the Lower Waitaki river, is a joint irrigation and hydro generation development. Investigations have indicated that there is potential for new irrigation of nearly 39,000ha and generation of up to 3200GWh per year from six power stations along a 62km canal on the south bank of the river, between Kurow and just above State Highway 1.