Mighty River Power will have to pay the city $2 million if the quality of the water supply deteriorates during construction of a wind farm in the Turitea Reserve.
And Mighty River Power will be required to have public liability insurance of $20 million to cover potential risks to the water supply, a report to the Palmerston North City Council’s infrastructural well-being committee reveals.
The committee meets tomorrow night to discuss the proposed wind farm.
The council is confident that sufficient safeguards can be put in place so the existing untreated water quality does not deteriorate over time as a result of the construction, says water and waste services manager Chris Pepper in the report.
Even so, the conditional contract between the council and Mighty River Power requires the energy company to make the $2 million payment if an upgrade to the water- treatment plant is required.
The report is the first glimpse at the discussions that have been held between Mighty River and the council since the proposal to open up the reserve for wind turbines was launched. Controversy has raged since the council sought submissions on the first step of changing the purpose of the reserve and amending the Turitea Management Plan to allow renewable energy generation in the reserve.
The council received 531 submissions and 66 percent opposed the proposal.
Despite the opposition, the report recommends the committee approve both the change of purpose to the reserve to allow renewable electricity generation and the amendment of the Turitea Management Plan.
However, in the report, Mr Pepper suggests some additional restrictions be put on the development of a wind farm, including limiting the amount of existing vegetation that can be removed to 25 hectares, banning the removal of primary indigenous forest within the reserve and limiting the size of a wind farm to the existing tracks plus 25ha.
Once the location of the turbines and the extent of the physical damage is known, the council will have the power to grant or decline consent to any destruction of indigenous flora or fauna, the report says.
An existing purpose of the reserve is to protect indigenous flora and fauna and the Conservation Department is concerned about how compatible that is with a wind farm, Mr Pepper says.
“These concerns have been in part addressed with the proposed recommendations in this report.”
In particular, DOC wants to ensure that the money received from the wind farm is spent on ecological benefits to the reserve.
The council intends to put legal mechanisms in place to ensure this occurs, once the purpose of the reserve has been changed, Mr Pepper says.
The report says the council recognises community concerns about the visual effects of the increasing number of turbines on the Tararua ranges.
“Indicative turbine locations and preliminary photo montages suggest the effects will not be as great as people fear.
“Certainly there has been a lot of misinformation by some as to the size of the turbines and their potential visual effects.”
Mr Pepper says that while there will be an effect on the character of the landscape, the key improvements in ecology must be considered.
The council has no control over the location of turbines on private land, Mr Pepper says in the report, but the council wishes to convey to Mighty River Power that sites selected will not cause adverse effects on adjoining properties.
By Helen Harvey
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