The problem the Manawatu Standard has with the Palmerston North City Council’s Turitea Reserve wind-farm consultation process is that residents can’t be sure of what they are supporting, or opposing.
The council has asked for submissions on changing the reserve’s management plan to allow “renewable electricity generation” within the reserve. That could mean a wind farm. It could mean solar panels. It could mean a mini hydro dam.
It just so happens the council has a proposal on the table from Mighty River Power that would like part of a proposed new wind farm to be placed within the reserve.
Some payments to the council have already been made and more are promised as the plan gets closer to going ahead. However, there’s no clear indication to city ratepayers of how many turbines this involves, how big they would be, where they would go, and what impact putting them in the reserve would have on the bush and trees.
The council has also raised the idea that a wind farm could generate money that could create an eco-park in the area. There is no promise it will definitely happen, nor when it will happen, nor how big the proposal will be, nor how much of the wind-farm money would go into such an eco-park.
What all this means is that residents who support changes to the reserve management plan don’t really know what they are opening the door to. Those who oppose changing the reserve plan don’t really know what they are shutting the door on.
The Manawatu Standard is comfortable with the concept of wind-generated electricity, but we believe ratepayers have a right to know what is being planned.
What has been missing is open debate among councillors on whether they, as our elected representatives, think the city should have a wind farm of a certain size and type at Turitea. Supposedly, that debate will come through the resource consent process that will follow a change to the plan and Mighty River’s probable application to install a wind farm.
The reserve isn’t private land and residents aren’t disinterested bystanders. To allow the process to get to the stage of where an independent commissioner will decide while residents argue from the sidelines seems wrong. More debate on the specifics of the plan should be coming in advance of all this.
Remember: When you make a submission on the plan – and the deadline is Monday – all you are doing is saying whether renewable electricity generation can occur there or not. Everything else is still to be revealed.