Until recently, New Zealand's spectacular Clutha River was threatened by four hydro dams proposed by Contact Energy, at Tuapeka Mouth, Beaumont, Queensberry and Luggate. This website remains active as a reminder that our New Zealand rivers are still not safe from hydro exploitation.

Option Five Campaign



The 'Option 5 Campaign' Starts Here!
Contact Energy has proposed four dams for the Clutha River, but they have not mentioned that there is another choice, 'Option 5' - No more dams.


12 Reasons To Avoid Proposed Clutha Dams

1. More Clutha dams would be for shareholder profits, not for local people
Contact Energy is motivated by shareholder returns, not by what is best for the local people, or New Zealand. The energy sector is structured to encourage growth for profit, which reduces the producer’s incentive to invest in energy conservation. While consumers have a cost incentive to save energy, producers have a profit incentive to sell more.

2. Energy efficiency can negate the need for new generation at less cost
Energy efficiency measures including better demand-side management, such as shifting energy usage from on-peak to off-peak periods, can significantly reduce or negate the need for new generation capacity. In most cases, demand reductions can be achieved at less cost than constructing new generation.

3. Power prices usually go up when new generation is built
Soaring power prices cannot be addressed by building new generation, because as history shows, the consumer is likely to fund this additional generation through higher power prices, which in turn drive hyper-inflation unless the unit price of electricity can be subsidised by industrial consumers.

4. Otago already has more power than it needs
Otago-Southland has 7% of the country’s population, and 20% of its generation capacity. This generation percentage is set to increase with the new Kaiwera Downs and Mahinerangi Wind Farms. Otago exports an average of 70% of its power. Generation closer to the end-user is more energy efficient, more equitable, and costs less to supply.

5. Large dams have massive carbon footprints and are not clean and green
Large dams are not clean and green because they have a “full life” carbon footprint that is 2 to 6 times larger than an average wind farm (another poor option), cause serious environmental and community impacts, degrade ecosystem integrity, submerge productive land, and impose long-term costs, risks and liabilities relating to reservoir sedimentation, flooding, instability and eventual decommissioning, that if fully taken into account would make them uneconomic.

6. Large dams are not truly “renewable”
Large-scale hydro (over 10 MW) is no longer defined as a “renewable” by many organisations including the World Wildlife Fund, because the “full life” negative impacts of large hydro outweigh the renewable benefits in terms of being truly environmentally safe and sustainable. More than 260 organisations have signed the International Rivers declaration to exclude large hydro, over 10 MW, from renewable energy initiatives in the carbon market.

7. Climate change poses a significant risk for hydro storage
New Zealand’s security of supply is threatened by our heavy reliance on large hydro because climate change is causing more unreliable rainfall patterns. NIWA has identified large-scale pattern variations that “pose a significant risk” for hydro storage. "Dry Winters" have already been financially devastating to Contact Energy.

8. Damming the Clutha River again would not solve the energy problem
If energy demand grows at 2.5% p.a. as predicted, we would need the equivalent of one new Luggate dam (86 MW) every 6 months, or one new Tuapeka dam (350 MW) every 25 months, or another Clyde dam (432 MW) every 29 months. This is a dead-end strategy. Clearly a long-term solution is needed.

9. NZ’s largest single “new” renewable is Neptune Power’s Cook Strait option
Neptune Power’s Cook Strait marine power development is the single largest, and the most promising “new” renewable energy available to New Zealand. It has very large expansion potential (17000 MW), gives a guaranteed weather-independent output, and has a relatively low material cost. This innovative new energy technology offers substantial opportunities for New Zealand in a quickly changing world.

10. The Clutha River corridor has many rare species needing protection
The Clutha River corridor is home to many unique and endangered species. However ecosystem integrity is declining because of invasive species, abstraction, pollution, real estate development, and hydrological dysfunction associated with hydro dam reservoirs. Conservation and restoration is needed, not more dams.

11. The Clutha River is part of our identity and cannot be replaced
The outstanding natural, recreational, tourism, heritage and cultural values of the Clutha River cannot be replaced. There is no other river in Otago, perhaps New Zealand, which is so well suited to such a wide range of river activities, both recreational and commercial, including kayaking, rafting, jetboating, canoeing, guided raft-fishing, fly-fishing, triathlons, kayak schools, and river trail walking / cycling / mountain-biking.

12. River trail investment and economic benefits must be protected
River communities are working on river trails, which will provide long-term economic benefits without destroying the free-flowing river. Investment in trails will amount to many millions of dollars, and this investment will return to the river communities many times over, as trail-based tourism generates new jobs and services. This investment and these economic benefits must be protected.


Prepared by the CLUTHA RIVER FORUM, an alliance of: Upper Clutha River Guardians, Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway Group, Central Otago Environmental Society (Save Central), Clutha Gold Trail Trust, Beaumont Residents Group, Lower Clutha River Guardians, and individuals throughout Otago and New Zealand.

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About This Site

'Save The Clutha' supports the 'Option 5 Campaign' launched by the Clutha River Forum, an alliance of river and conservation groups opposed to further "Think Big" dams on the Clutha River.

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