No Dam for Mokihinui River

Today the power company, Meridian Energy, cancelled the plan to build a dam across the Mokihinui River gorge. The river is on the West Coast of the South Island, north of Westport. Meridian Energy has been planning this dam since 2008 and has spent $18m already. The plan was for an 85m high dam and power station which would generate 360 gigawatt hours a year. This would provide enough electricity for the West Coast which now gets its power from the Waitaki River power stations 600km away.

In April 2010, Meridian received resource consent for the dam from the Coast Council but DoC, the Department of Conservation, was not happy about this and appealed to the Environment Court. The conservation group, Forest and Bird, said the Mokihinui gorge is the home for many endangered birds, eels, bats, lizards, giant snails and native fish. It is very popular with people who enjoy white water rafting and kayaking. It is also popular with people who enjoy the natural landscape of the West Coast.

The Meridian plan was to make a 14km long lake which could be used for boating and other leisure activities. However, there is such strong opposition to the idea of a dam on this gorge that Meridian has decided not to go ahead.

Earlier this year, Meridian decided not to go ahead with plans for a wind farm in Central Otago and in 2004 Meridian cancelled plans to build another dam on the Waitaki River. Meridian had already spent over $100m on these plans but there was strong opposition to both of them. Meridian believes that wind energy could be successful on the West Coast.

Listen to January 25th 2012 to hear about the wind farm plan in Central Otago.

If you are interested in seeing the gorge and white water rafting and kayaking on the Mokihinui River watch a video on YouTube.


• gorge –a deep valley with river at the bottom
• resource consent – to say ‘yes’ to using natural resources like water
• appeal – to go to a higher court
• Environment court – listens to both sides when there is an argument about the environment
• endangered – not many left, could become extinct
• opposition (n)– a group with strong beliefs different from the other side; to oppose (v), opposite (adj)
• go ahead – do it (idiom)


• Why are people opposed to hydro electricity schemes, to wind farms and to nuclear power stations? What about coal-fired and gas-fired power stations? New Zealand now uses thermal energy from underground steam. Is there opposition to this also?

• What is the future for electricity generation?

Listen to November 22nd 2008 to hear about a Geothermal power station.

One Comments

  1. I think we should have some more hydro electricty. Every winter we got not enough electricity in the south island. If compare with coal-fired or gas-fired, make a dam to generate power is better. Although wind power station is best, it can not be used everywhere in NZ! I think hydro and wind power stations are the future for electricity generation.

Leave a Reply