TrustPower looks set to bypass a bitter environmental stoush and get most of its $600 million Mahinerangi wind farm completed by building initially only on Clutha District Councilcontrolled land.
TrustPower is to withdraw its consent application from the Dunedin City Council and will apply only to the CDC and the Otago Regional Council for consent.
By building the first two stages of its wind farm in the Clutha district, it will not need DCC resource consent for about three to five years, when it begins stage three.
The company described the move as “expediency” and said it was, in part, a result of the opposition its plans have encountered.
It will also be applying for consent from a council that has a more development-friendly district plan than Dunedin has, though TrustPower community relations manager Graeme Purches said yesterday that was not behind the decision.
In June, the company lodged resource consent applications with the three Otago councils for a development that would include between 83 and 150 turbines.
Depending on the size the company chooses, the turbines could be as high as 145m, or 45 storeys high, dotted across 3260ha near Lake Mahinerangi.
The application prompted strong opposition.
The Upland Landscape Protection Society was formed to oppose the plan, its concerns centring on visual and environmental issues.
Yesterday, Mr Purches said the company was “sizing back” its application.
“It’s still our intention to build a 300MW wind farm, but it would be a lot easier to get consent for something on the Clutha District Council patch.”
In bypassing the Dunedin council, TrustPower took environmental, water-supply and public-land-ownership issues out of the issue, he said.
Removing “key areas of contention” would simplify consent processes for the initial stages.
The DCC owns environmentally sensitive water catchment land the company wants to use for stage three.
The Clutha part of the development was mainly on farmland and TrustPowerowned land, or land covered by agreements with farmers for its use. In three to five years, the company could go back to the DCC, when the wind farm was already running, and show what the impact was. There would also be hard data at that time to show people. “A lot of the misinformation and emotion will go out of it.” TrustPower planned to apply for consent to build stage three at that time. It made no difference to the wind farm, as the company had always planned to build it in three stages. “We need to get this built because of demand for electricity,” he said.
Upland Landscape Protection Society spokesman Richard Reeve said he could not imagine how TrustPower could “presume to contain the outfall of their project” within the confines of the Clutha District Council.
“I await the specifics.”
Mr Reeve said the society did not think three councils were enough to decide the issue. Instead, he would rather see a national approach to decision-making.
By David Loughrey
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