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Tough talk at wind farm meeting

Lee Stream locals locked horns with TrustPower over the proposed Mahinerangi wind farm at a Lee Stream meeting last night.

TrustPower came armed with a team of nearly 20, including experts in various fields.

Local farmer Peter Doherty (46) said consultation had been extensive but it meant nothing as the locals’ concerns did not bring about any change.

“These big corporations have got as many dollars as they want to throw at it, so what are a bunch of farmers going to do?”

He said the fate of snow tussock in the path of the wind farm was a major concern.

But Dr Ian Boothroyd, a fresh water ecologist for Kingett Mitchell Golder, said tussock grew on less than 1% of the total affected land.

“Our plan is to uplift the tussock prior to construction, move it to a nearby site, and at its completion we’ll replace it.”

Other ecological concerns included the fate of rare New Zealand falcons and sediment damage in the surrounding waterways.

Dr Boothroyd said falcons did not use the wind farm area much, and despite reports of a pair copulating nearby, the effects turbines would have on them would be “less than minor”.

He also said the use of sediment ponds, fences and postconstruction monitoring would ensure no adverse sedimentation affected the area’s waterways.

Traffic management was fiercely debated, with Trust-Power explaining pilot vehicles, radios and special trucks with rear-axle steering would counter the need for new passing lanes.

That raised the hackles of resident Owen Diack, who believed congestion caused by slow, oversized trucks needed to haul the turbines warranted more investment.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if you said you liked the place and you liked the people, and we’re going to give you a passing lane. But you’re not.

“You’re prepared to come here and change the community but you’re not prepared to put anything back in.”

TrustPower environment manager Gavin Kemble explained consultation with individual landowners would focus on those types of issues, and would begin in January.

TrustPower major construction manager Deion Campbell said the use of helicopters to haul in equipment was “a financial and physical impossibility”.

But it was the look of the turbines that irritated residents the most, said TrustPower community relations manager Graeme Purches.

TrustPower claimed the views in the area would certainly change, but despite disbelief from the audience, argued the overall visual effect “would not be adverse”.

“It’s people that live 11km away that don’t want to look at the wind farm, and they’re not going to get any money out of it,” Mr Purches said.

“There’s an element of envy in it. They’re looking for reasons to stop these things going up, because they don’t want to look at them.”

He said despite popular opinion that most South Island power headed north to Auckland, the South Island often drew power from the North Island via the Cook Strait cable.

By Craig Borley

odt.co.nz