Giant land snails will be the winners if the proposed Motorimu Wind Farm gets the go-ahead.
There is a large population, currently unprotected, of threatened powelliphanta (giant land snails) in Kaihinu forest and in bush near the proposed wind farm site, ecology expert Isobel Gabites said.
Ms Gabites was giving evidence on the second day of the resource consent hearing into Motorimu Wind Farm Ltd’s application to build a 127-turbine wind farm on the Tararua Ranges behind Linton and Tokomaru.
Measures to protect the snails have been put in place by the energy company, which has allocated a maximum of $100,000 to a five-year research programme into control of predators, she said.
“There is a significant conservation benefit afforded to the snail population by these mitigation measures.”
Other measures include fencing and the funding of conservation initiatives to reduce the pressure of pastoral land-users and predators on the giant land snails. There is also to be physical protection of a remnant of regenerating podocarp forest within the wind farm, which contains a highly degraded giant land snail population, she said.
“This protection will both improve the conservation values of the stand and offer an interesting research opportunity for monitoring snail recovery.”
The company has also agreed to a three-year monitoring programme of New Zealand falcons, which may be resident in the vicinity of the wind farm.
In a report by falcon expert Richard Seaton, tabled at the hearing, Mr Seaton said it is debatable whether the agile New Zealand falcons will be in danger of striking turbine blades.
“The lack of nesting New Zealand bush falcon in the bush immediately adjacent to the proposed wind farm site . . . suggests the wind farm area will not be a high-intensity-use area for bush falcons.”
Ms Gaites said that, during site visits, the only birds recorded travelling at rotor-height through the area were Australasian harriers, magpies, pairs of paradise shelduck and occasional flocks of starlings
Thus, the only threat from wind- farm development along the ridgeline appeared to be to common pastoral birds.
By Helen Harvey
10 March 2007
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