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Report criticises Horizons leadership

Horizons Regional Council has not taken a strong leadership role in the development of wind farms in Manawatu and a report says it should have.

Wind Power, People and Place, a report by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Morgan Williams, tabled in Parliament yesterday, recommends regional councils take a leadership role in developing a proactive, strategic approach to wind power development.

However, last month, Horizons said it was not its job to decide where wind farms will be erected.

Horizons spokeswoman Emma Goodwin said yesterday the council has not yet had a chance to read the report and will comment today.

Dr Williams says in the report Horizons has only submitted on one of the wind farms in Manawatu, despite Horizons’ own regional plan saying the Tararua Range is of outstanding regional significance.

Regional councils have an important leadership and integration role to play in supporting, planning for and managing wind farm development, Dr Williams says.

“In particular, regional councils should take a strategic approach to identifying and encouraging the appropriate use of renewable energy resources and protect regionally significant landscapes and other land use.”

Regional councils need to develop strong policy and establish strong communication and partnerships with local authorities in the region, he says.

Dr Williams listed a number of areas where regional councils should be involved, which included assessing the potential cumulative impacts of wind farm development in the region and identify preferable locations, scales and extent of wind farm development.

Key points in the report:
* Investment in smaller-scale, distri- buted wind farms and turbines needs to be encouraged.

* New Zealand’s potential for community-owned wind power should be investigated.

* Government should provide local authorities with guidance on planning for wind farm development, and managing tensions that arise from it.

* Wind farms in or near coastal environments, conservation land, and historic and heritage sites need particular attention.

* Regional authorities need to take a lead with a more proactive, strategic approach to wind power.

* Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) reporting on public attitudes to wind power needs to be expanded.

* Local bodies should use their long- term planning processes to get community input on wind farm development.

* Regional authorities should take a leadership role in landscape management.

* The Ministry for the Environment should develop a nationally consistent approach to landscape assessment that local authorities can use.

By Helen Harvey