Eastland Group chairman Nelson Cull has reassured both Wairoa District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council that the company is working with “real urgency and commitment” to get the damaged sluice gates at Waihi dam closed and operational.
The 11GWh hydroelectricity station on the Waihi River has been out of operation for about eight weeks, since an abatement notice from HBRC halted repair work due to the resulting silt inflow into the Waiau River. The abatement notice required the gates to be closed but the damage to one of the gates, caused by extreme weather in 2015, is preventing it being fully closed.
Mr Cull said he and fellow director Tony Gray met last week with Wairoa Council’s mayor Craig Little, and chief executive Fergus Power, and then with HBRC chairman Fenton Wilson.
“I think both meetings furthered understanding in terms of informing both the council and district council what we are doing to rectify this unsatisfactory situation at Waihi dam,” said Mr Cull.
Mr Cull conceded that Eastland Group’s communication could have been better in the period leading up to last week’s meetings, and said the company was striving to work more effectively with farmers and others in the region affected by water supply issues caused by silt seeping into the river.
“Eastland Group apologises unreservedly for the situation at Waihi dam, which was caused by weather events outside our control. We are now working as hard as possible to remedy the situation, as quickly as we possibly can.”
Eastland Network general manager, Brent Stewart, also attended last week’s meetings. He confirmed gabion baskets had now been installed downstream from the dam, in an effort to mitigate the silt seeping into the Waiau River.
“These are working as well as could be expected to trap sediment before it hits the river, but we are very focused on getting the gates fully closed and the dam operational as soon as possible. We have been working with specialist engineering consultants and will present a work plan to council this week.”
Mr Stewart said the company was keen to continue discussions with farmers and others affected by silt inflow.
“The gabion baskets are certainly slowing the inflow. Our focus now is on getting the gate fully closed and repaired, so that we can plan for improved management of the dam itself, in an effort to avoid any similar issues in future.”
Eastland Group has owned the Waihi hydro scheme since it was purchased in 1999 as part of our Wairoa Power (electricity network) acquisition. Located at Lake Ruapapa on the Waihi River 26km north west of Wairoa, the dam was completed in 1986. Its reservoir is 5.2km in length, with an area of 42ha holding almost two million cubic metres of water. Annual electricity output is around 11GWh – enough to power about 1400 houses.