Project Aqua was a hydroelectric scheme proposed for the lower Waitaki River in New Zealand. Although the scheme had considerable support from some locals, it met with opposition from many other groups, and Meridian Energy decided in March 2004 not to go ahead with the project.
The plan was to divert river water at the rate of up to 280 cubic metres per second into a separate canal for six power stations. This was on top of the three dams already in the upper Waitaki. The scheme would have produced approximately 520MW of power — enough to supply a city the size of Christchurch.
The objections to the scheme included land issues, the disruption during construction, and concerns about the sustainability of the river. Meridian was working on a large scale mitigation process, whereby issues could be identified and mitigated, when the scheme was finally canceled.
Abandonment and impact
On 29 March 2004, Meridian announced that they would not continue with Project Aqua. Among their reasons were the uncertainty in gaining access to the water, that Aqua could not come on line soon enough to meet New Zealand's growing electricity demand, the amount of money it was costing the company, design changes due to geology reports, and the Resource Management Act making it difficult to get consent for large water based projects.
Meridian's 2004 annual report states that they lost NZ$38.7 million on the project. At the time of cancellation they had spent considerably more than this, but much of the expenditure was for assets such as land that they would later sell.
Possible alternative scheme
Subsequently, Meridian proceeded to develop an alternative hydroelectric scheme along the same stretch of the Waitaki River - the North Bank tunnel project. They received water uses consents from Environment Canterbury in December 2008 but work on the project was suspended in January 2013.
- The Project Aqua Design Difference, Wednesday, 2 July 2003, Press Release: Meridian Energy
- Cumming, Geoff (3 Apr 2004). "Who killed Project Aqua?". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
- Oliver, Paula (5 April 2004). "Speed up RMA, says business". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- "Faultlines spark redesign in Waitaki power project". New Zealand Herald. 16 September 2010.
- Webby, Jacquie (20 January 2013). "Meridian suspends land negotiations". Oamaru Mail. Archived from the original on 12 February 2013.