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DOC wary of Meridian wind farm

The Department of Conservation has told planners that Meridian Energy’s $2 billion, 176-turbine Project Hayes windfarm on the Lammermoor Range in Central Otago should be turned down if conservation concerns cannot be addressed.

Yesterday, Otago conservator Jeff Connell said DOC had filed a submission with the Central Otago District Council seeking conditions that address a range of concerns over the Project Hayes application. The 630MW windfarm near Dunedin is planned to be big enough to power every home in the South Island, with the first stage producing about 150MW.

Named in honour of Otago wind- power pioneer Ernest Hayes, it is expected to be built in stages as power demands increase.

Meridian Energy chief executive Dr Keith Turner has said the project would conserve water in the hydro lakes, assist with security of power supply, and create “significant growth opportunities for businesses and employment” in the region. “It will enable us to conserve the water in the hydro lakes and assist with security of supply in the South Island.”

But Connell said yesterday the application did not adequately identify aspects of the biodiversity of the area. “This means it has not been possible for the department to properly assess the effects of the proposal,” he said.

The application also failed to provide for managing vegetation fire risk management. Meridian had agreed to provide additional information, but that had not yet been received and evaluated, Connell said.

It was also going to be important to identify the way in which the wind farm alters the qualities of the recreational experiences that are presently available to the public in three adjacent areas.

These concerns should be able to be addressed by conditions, or by mitigation measures, Connell said. “I am confident these are capable of resolution.”