By PAUL GORMAN
Millionaire Marlborough grape-grower Peter Yealands appears to be a driving force behind attempts to build a major wind farm in the region.
The Seddon businessman and entrepreneur, who owns the country’s largest vineyard, has an estimated fortune of $70 million, according to the latest National Business Review rich list.
During the past year, Yealands has been in the news over his abortive takeover of Oyster Bay Marlborough Vineyards.
He has also been closely linked with TrustPower’s proposal for a Marlborough wind farm, which involved monitoring of wind conditions on his land.
The idea was subsequently scrapped, and it was revealed TrustPower and Yealands had been at loggerheads about the size of likely royalties for using his property as a wind farm.
Last week, another generation company, Mighty River Power, said it was in the earliest stages of investigating wind power in Marlborough, and was looking at a site closer to Cape Campbell than TrustPower’s plan.
Yealands is also involved in that proposal, being one of five landowners who have been negotiating with Mighty River over the construction of monitoring towers on their properties.
TrustPower spokesman Graeme Purches said usually the company would identify a possible site and then go and talk to landowners.
But in the Marlborough case, Yealands had gone to TrustPower offering his land for testing and to talk to neighbouring property holders about a wind farm.
Yealands told The Press yesterday he did not want to comment on who had approached whom over the Mighty River proposal, hinting that he had already said more than he should.
“I got growled at last time for talking to the media. I get a bit frustrated with these power companies because TrustPower had a proposal, they wanted to go with it. In the end I said no. There was no (financial) return in it for me.”
Mighty River spokesman Neil Williams said there was little to add to last week’s confirmation of the proposal by the company.
“Normally we don’t say much at this stage because there isn’t much to say. We’re not trying to avoid publicity, it’s more a case of `talk to me in a year’s time’.”
TrustPower pulled the plug on its Marlborough wind farm in May saying several factors had made it economically unviable to pursue its plans, including a lack of wind and the cost of getting the electricity out of the region.
Purches said he believed Mighty River would probably come to the same conclusions as TrustPower.
“The fact that Meridian Energy, who have wind experience, are actively seeking wind projects and actually have customers in Nelson and Marlborough, are not doing this probably should tell us something.”
Meridian spokesman Alan Seay confirmed it had no interest in Marlborough sites for wind generation.