Transmission line upgrade planned for New Zealand’s west coast

21 March, 2002 – An NZ$18.7m ($8.3m) upgrade has been announced for the electricity transmission lines to New Zealand’s West Coast. Local utility Westpower and national grid operator Transpower propose building initially a 110 kV line from Inangahua Junction to Reefton, which will link to the national grid.

Westpower said the upgrade will boost electricity capacity to meet the increased demand from industry developments, and will also allow for excess generation from the proposed Dobson hydro station to be exported.

Tauranga-based energy company TrustPower has said its 60 MW hydro station was needed to cope with increasing industrial demand, and to give security in case the national grid supply to the Coast failed.

Westpower chief executive Rob Caldwell said the investment in the new transmission lines was prompted by the Westland Milk Products expansion in Hokitika and the GRD Macraes gold mine at Reefton.

“The project will, in conjunction with upgrade work proposed by Transpower, enable further electricity capacity to be available for future West Coast development,” Mr Caldwell said.

“The additional capacity is also necessary to cater for the increased load demanded by the expanding tourism industry on the West Coast, particularly in the South Westland area.”

Security of electricity supply on the West Coast was an added benefit.

The new line would give a further circuit to maintain supply should any of the existing lines fail, such as happened two years ago with the Mount Horrible fire, near Arthurs Pass.

The first of the 17m-high concrete poles was under construction, with the new line to be built by Westpower’s contracting subsidiary, Electronet Services, and local contractors, Mr Caldwell said.

Final funding is being sought from the West Coast Development Trust, formed 18 months ago with the region’s forestry compensation fund to stimulate economic growth.

Westpower chairman Mike Newcombe said it was an opportunity for the trust to make a real difference in the capacity and security of electricity supply, seen as a key part of economic progress on the West Coast.

The West Coast Electric Power Trust chairman, Dom O’Sullivan, backed the project. The region would benefit, both in capacity and security of supply, Mr O’Sullivan said.

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