Ngawha has been a fantastically interesting project. This is because it encompasses so many scientific, technical, cultural, political and planning aspects. Our involvement began after the Resource Consents to build a Pilot Power Station were issued, but before the local community were entirely convinced of the merits of doing so. Before any physical works or engineering could be carried out there was a Legal requirement to undertake a minimum of one year’s environmental monitoring to establish the background, or baseline. The data required needed to build on existing historical scientific information, and also fill any gaps that might be needed in the future to prove or disprove any operating induced effects on the environment.

In between setting up a meteorological station, measuring mercury and hydrogen sulphide in the air, sampling and documenting physical characteristics of springs, lakes, streams, habitats, and fauna there was also the need to liaise with District and Regional Councils, Department of Conservation, Carter Holt Harvey, and other neighbours, and establish a Community Liaison Committee, a Peer Review Panel, as well as participate in local public meetings. Approximately one year after this work began the Pilot Station was built.

Throughout this time, 1996 to the present, the environmental monitoring and Resource Consent compliance for the Ngawha Geothermal Development has been managed by NZ Environmental providing consistency and excellent integration of information. Despite unexpected surprises, such as the discovery of a new fish species, Northland Mudfish (Neochanna heleios), which is ranked as Nationally Endangered, Ngawha Geothermal Resource Company has produced electricity from a renewable source for the benefit of local consumers for almost 20 years. This has been possible because the system returns the ‘cooler’ geothermal fluid (brine) to the reservoir from which it originates where it is reheated by stored heat in the rocks, and because of responsible operational and environmental management.

Ngawha Geothermal Resource Company first engaged NZE to undertake scientific measurements in 1996. The data collected from this was a critical reference point for the monitoring and management of the 10MW Pilot Power Station, which was commissioned in 1998. Environmental monitoring and management during the operation of the Pilot Station was carried out to meet all Resource Consent Conditions and provided valuable data for modelling and evidence for Council and Environment Court Hearings for the second station which was commissioned in 2008 increasing the station output to 25MW. It has been invaluable for us to have NZE managing this work and advising us on ways of improving our environmental performance. It helps us to focus on our core business and provides an independent insight and check on our procedures and compliance.
Les Parker
Generation Manager

For anyone interested in the geothermal industry we recommend you look at the NZGA website.