The people who will decide whether the Project Hayes wind farm can proceed are operating in a policy vacuum, it was claimed yesterday.
Meanwhile, opponents of the wind farm say they are not dispirited about the Government’s decision to back the project, and they still want the project abandoned.
Minister for the Environment and Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope said on Monday a “whole of government” submission was being worked on, which would indicate government support for the project.
Meridian Energy is planning a ple making these decisions should be as fully informed as possible, both at a regional and national level.
The problem was the Government did not have any energy policy to guide the decisionmakers.
“So these decisions are going to have to be made in a vacuum. The Government has not put out its policy on renewable energy, so what can guide the people who make these decisions?” she said.
She asked why the submission was being made now.
“Where was the Government during Project Aqua? They really don’t seem to have any level of consistency.”
Mrs Dean, who is National’s associate environmental wind farm on the Lammermoor Range, behind Middlemarch. It would have 176 160m-high towers and was expected to cost between $1.2 billion and $2 billion to build.
Submissions to the resource consents close on Friday.
Otago MP Jacqui Dean said, when contacted, she felt any decision on the project should be made under the Resource Management Act, and the peospokeswoman, said she tended to favour the project but it was not up to her.
The Government and the Ministry for the Environment had previously said a draft energy strategy would be released later this month
National’s environmental spokesman, Nick Smith, said the Government lacked consistency.
He said proposals for coalfired plants had attracted no government submissions despite the potential harm to the environment.
Dr Smith had been briefed on Project Hayes, and said National supported wind farms.
The Department of Conservation (Doc) was the only other government department planning a submission.
Doc Otago community relations manager Marian van der Goes said the submission was being worked on, and a position had yet to be established.
She agreed Mr Benson-Pope was correct when he said Doc’s interest in the process would end should Meridian satisfy Doc with additional information.
This information was related to landscape and visual amenity.
Minister of Conservation Chris Carter declined to comment. A spokesman said any comment now could compromise any input Mr Carter might have later in the project.
Doc director-general Al Morrison said, when contacted, it was not about wanting to stop the project or let it go ahead, but trying to facilitate to get a result which would have less impact on the environment. Upland Landscape Protection Society spokesman Richard Reeve said it was dispiriting to hear of the Government’s decision, but the group was not giving up. The group still believed it could stop the project. “They stopped Aramoana and Project Aqua,” he said. “Perhaps David Benson-Pope should have his portfolio renamed “˜Minister against the Environment’.”
By Steve Hepburn
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