On 19 Feb 2019, an incident occurred near Contact’s Te Mihi geothermal power station on the Wairakei geothermal field which caused environmental and cultural harm. The incident occurred when geothermal fluid intended for return to the underground reservoir was diverted to a soakage pond for a period of six days as the result of the activation of pressure control protection system at one of our wells. The pond was never intended nor constructed to receive the volume of fluid that it did during the six-day period and it ultimately failed, causing a large amount of geothermal fluid and sediment to flow into the Waipuwerawera stream, which feeds into the Waikato River. As a result, Contact accepted responsibility immediately and pled guilty at the earliest opportunity to a charge for breaching the Resource Management Act of 1991 which resulted in a fine.
We accept responsibility for the accidental, unauthorised, unlawful discharge into the Waikato River, and are very sorry that this happened. We have a longstanding connection with the Taupō community and tangata whenua that we value and want to strengthen. We also have a deep connection to the Waikato River and we were devastated to have caused this damage.
We have put a lot of effort into remediating the damage we caused to the environment, the plant and our community. This has included working with Ngāti Tūwharetoa on a restorative justice process which resulted in a cultural impact assessment being undertaken, and a commitment from Contact to address the issues raised as part of their assessment.
We acknowledge the mauri of the Waipuwerawera and Waikato river, and the deep connection that Ngāti Tūwharetoa have to these waterways. We committed to addressing the impact we’ve had environmentally, culturally, and on our relationship.
The cultural impact assessment can be found in the link below.