Mighty River Power

Finalist
2012
A partnership approach to environmental management

Mighty River Power's environmental management policy reflects the company's belief that meeting community as well as regulatory expectations will maintain its licence to operate.

Mighty River Power says its partnership approach with its stakeholders in the responsible inter-generational management of natural resources is what sets the business apart. Its aim is to create long-term sustainable value, with particular regard to kaitiakitanga.

The company's systems, endorsed six years running with an Enviro-Mark Diamond ranking from Landcare Research, not only aim to minimise the environmental impact of their operations. They also impose an ongoing obligation to improve the company's use of resources, to develop long-term sustainable relationships with partners and communities, and to deepen the organisation's understanding of the changing environmental priorities of those groups.

The company says its approach is fundamentally important as its assets on the Waikato River and the geothermal steam fields it draws from traverse various ownership arrangements and different local body jurisdictions.

WCEET

It cites the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust (WCEET), formed in 2003, as a unique solution for undertaking ecological mitigation projects on the Waikato River.

The trust was formed in 2003 as a result of the hundreds of discussions Mighty River Power had with organisations during re-consenting of its Waikato hydro system. It realised that bringing those interests together through one entity would be more effective and could accelerate delivery of ecological benefits in the catchment by avoiding an adversarial or litigious process.

The trust, established with the help of the Ecological Interests Group - comprising the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game NZ, Forest and Bird and the Advisory Committee for the Regional Environment representatives - is a capital fund that administers grants to a variety of groups seeking to carry out ecological remediation or rehabilitation projects on the river.

Since its inception, the WCEET has approved 122 funding applications, spending $2.4 million on projects already and committing a further $1.1 million. The trust's successes include protection of wetlands and game bird habitats, enhanced fish passage and extensive native tree planting.

WCEET recognises the importance of working towards shared objectives, as evidenced by the extension of its unique collaborative approach to working with the Waikato River Authority (WRA) in the past year. WCEET became a catalyst and "delivery agent" when the authority started funding health and well-being projects on the Waikato River in August 2011.  By using its existing relationships with local iwi, councils and interest groups, the trust was able to identify projects that could be nominated for additional funding.

Thanks to this collaborative approach riparian ecosystems on the lower Waikato River will be restored using the $600,000 granted, Waikato River trails are to be developed, wetlands enhanced and sustainable dairy farming practises restored.

Relationships

Working with local communities means Mighty River Power has developed enduring relationships with many iwi including Raukawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Tahu-Ngati Whaoa, Waikato Tainui, Ngati Koroki-Kahukura and the Te Arawa River Iwi Trust. They are supported through Mighty River Power's funding of health, education and employment initiatives, cultural activities, sports activities and iwi-led lake and river enhancement projects.

The company also has specific commercial arrangements with the Tuaropaki Trust, with a shareholding in the Trust's Mokai geothermal power station, and the Tauhara North No. 2 Trust, its partner in the Rotokawa and Nga Awa Purua geothermal stations.

Last year Mighty River Power also signed a joint development agreement with Okere Incorporation and Ruahine & Kuharua Incorporation for the investigation and development of geothermal power generation on the Taheke field, north-east of Rotorua.

The company has also entered into a long-term carbon credit supply agreement with the Puketapu 3A Incorporation to meet its own emissions obligations and to help fund the land trust's environmental initiatives.

The Incorporation is re-foresting part of its farmland around Lake Taupo to help improve water quality by reducing nitrate flows into the lake.

The Environmental Excellence Award category is sponsored by PEPANZ.