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Horizons backs call for councils to take lead

Horizons Regional Council says it is right behind Environment Commissioner Morgan Williams’ call for regional councils to take a lead in managing wind farm development. Dr Williams’ report Wind Power, People and Place, was tabled in Parliament last week.

Horizons chairman Garry Murfitt said he agrees with Dr Williams’ recommendation that regional councils take a leadership role in developing a proactive, strategic approach to wind power.

“We are going down that track now.

“We should be taking a leadership role, but it has to be in partnership with territorial local authorities.”

Mr Murfitt said there should be a national policy statement from central government on future development of wind farms right throughout New Zealand.

However, he isn’t sure this should include guidelines on issues such as how close the turbines should be to houses.

“One has to be more objective. It’s not always easy to make guidelines. It has to stack up to science not perception. Perception in people’s minds becomes reality.”

Mr Murfitt said there is growing opposition to wind farms on the Tararua Ranges a point that was also made by Dr Williams in his report.

Last month Horizons wrote to city and district councils and asked them to find out what their communities wanted. He has received a few responses, but doubts whether he’ll get a “full community steer” on the issue.

The council’s One Plan is another way the council is trying to gauge public opinion, Mr Murfitt said.

“I encourage city and district councils and the public to look at the One Plan and talk to staff about their view . . . there are opposing views on what is a significant landscape and what is not.”

In his report Dr Williams said Horizons made a submission on the first wind farm proposal.

“This submission was neutral and only highlighted the objectives and policies in the regional policy statement (RPS) relevant to the proposal.”

Mr Murfitt said the report suggests the submission “was passive we wouldn’t have thought so.”

The report also said Horizons has not been involved in any other hearings …”despite the RPS identifying the Tararua Ranges as an outstanding natural feature of regional significance.”

Mr Murfitt said there was no thought about wind farms when the RPS was drawn up.

And, he does not believe the statement is talking about the lower foothills of the ranges where the wind farms are located.

By Helen Harvey