Ormat receives approval for investment of $200 million for 45 MW project near Rotorua, NZ

Tikitere, Hell's Gate, near Rotorua/ New Zealand (source: flickr/ ~ Pil ~, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 1 Feb 2012

New Zealand's Overseas Investment Office has given approval to Ormat Technologies to invest $200 million in a proposed 45 MW geothermal Power plant project by Tikitere Geothermal Power.

Reported this morning from New Zealand, the country’s Overseas Investment Office has given approval to Ormat Technologies to invest $200 million in a proposed 45-megawatt power station on Maori-owned land near Rotorua.

The Ormat Technology project could add to a raft of geothermal power projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the central North Island recently completed or planned by big players such as Contact Energy and state-owned Mighty River Power.

The investment by Tikitere Ltd Partnership, wholly owned by Ormat Technology, was approved by the OIO in December.

Under the proposal, the subsidiary would work with three Maori land trusts – Tikitere, Paehinahina Mourea and Manupirua Ahu Whenua, known as Tikitere Geothermal Power Ltd – to build and run the station on 900 hectares between Lake Rotoiti and State Highway 30.

Tikitere Ltd Partnership has agreed ownership and operation of the station and any interest in the land would revert to the trusts after 14 years.

However, a group of shareholders from the three trusts says the project could be delayed because of inadequate consultation. After Maori Land Court hearings, the group has lodged an application to the Court of Appeal to have the trustees who signed the deal with Ormat removed.

“The shareholders are not against the project in principle but … communication and consultation between trustees and shareholders has been totally lacking,” a spokesman for the group said.

“The shareholders now see a big international company moving in on their land without having talked directly to the people who live there.”

There was also concern over whether Ormat would return ownership to the trusts after 14 years, he said. And resource consents had not been granted.

“It is not a done deal and there is still a long, long way to go before any holes are drilled.”

A Tikitere Ltd spokesman said several conditions, including resource consent, still had to be met before construction would begin. The investment criterion had been one of the conditions.

The $200 million funding by Ormat represented expenditure over the life period of the power station, and not only the construction cost, he said.”