Election 2023: Christopher Luxon hints at wanting to approve massive project to cut emissions on West Coast

A rejected hydroelectricity scheme on the West Coast could be revived if National wins the election. 

Westland Milk is urging Christopher Luxon to rubberstamp the project so it can use the power to cut its emissions by half - and Luxon is hinting yes. 

After a spectacular flight over the Southern Alps, Luxon landed on the spectacular West Coast on Wednesday. 

Luxon's campaign took him straight to the region’s biggest employer: Westland Milk.

That meant a special factory kit, including a red hairnet, in order to inspect the butter churning, and even piping out his own. There was also a morning tea. 

The company produces 15 percent of the region’s GDP, but also a large portion of its carbon emissions.

"The objective by 2037 is to have no coal onsite. That's what we need to do for the environment, so having that energy source down the road is fundamental to making it happen," said Richard Wyeth, the chief executive.

That source is the proposed Waitaha Hydro Scheme, not a dam, but a weir diverting water through an underground tunnel to a turbine.

"We’d done a lot to design a really environmentally sensitive suitable local hydro-generation station," said Westpower Generation and Tech manager Rodger Griffiths.

The problem is, despite council and iwi support, it's been rejected by the Government due to kayakers and its impact on "pristine wilderness areas". 

"There will always be some impact but we’re proud of the fact we’ve reduced that impact to as far as possible," said Griffiths. 

Wyeth said: "To kibosh that opportunity is huge for us".

"It means we’re going to have to bring transmission from the East Coast to the West Coast when we have a perfectly good renewable energy opportunity here."

Westland Milk uses coal to power its boilers they want to go electric and decarbonise, but they can’t. 

The scheme would produce enough electricity to cut Westland Milk's emissions by around half. 

"It should be revisited. Have another look at it," Wyeth said.

Luxon said there are statutory processes to go through, but he has "great sympathy for us expanding renewable sources of electricity across New Zealand."

"You should read very clearly between the lines that we want to double renewable energy up and down this country."

So reading between the lines, that's more of a yes than a no, the West Coast could have its own renewable energy source if Luxon wins.