A site visit this morning on the Maungaharuru Range concluded a four-day Environment Court hearing into whether a major windfarm can be built near Te Pohue, west of Napier.
The Environment Court this week heard submissions and evidence from supporters and those opposed to power company Unison Network’s plans to build Stage 2 of its Te Waka Windfarm.
The project comprises 38 wind turbines and will be built next to Unison’s Stage 1 windfarm of 15 turbines.
Stage 2 was approved by the Hastings District Council last year but since then three appeals have forced the proposal to the Environment Court which will have the final say.
Judge Craig Thompson and commissioners William Howie and Kathyrn Edmonds heard the closing comments by Unison’s legal counsel, Alison McEwan, yesterday afternoon but aren’t likely to make a decision until later this year.
Hawke’s Bay Windfarm, which has a resource consent for a 75-turbine development near Te Pohue, spoke against the Unison project, along with the Outstanding Landscape Preservation Society and the Maungaharuru-Tagitu Society with Ngati Hineuru Iwi Inc.
All three groups this week had a chance to put their case forward as to why the windfarm should not go ahead.
Maori representatives called eight witnesses to talk of the significance the Maungaharuru, Titiokura and Te Waka mountain ranges have to Maori.
The iwi counsel Tania Hopmans said the site for the new windmills was near what is known in Maori legend as ‘Te Waka” – a dip in the land looking towards the ranges from the Port of Napier.
Te Waka is an important part of Maori tradition, particularly the legend of Maui fishing up the North Island. She said it was therefore opposed on religious and spiritual grounds.
Supporters of the iwi have been protesting outside Napier Courthouse with placards.
The court also heard from Unison, the Hastings council and the Energy Efficient Commission Authority (EECA) speaking in favour of windfarm power generation.
Legal counsel for the Hastings council, Bruce Gilmour, told the court New Zealand needed to take every opportunity for alternative power generation methods to help meet the country’s electrical power consumption.
He said windfarms, as a form of renewable energy, assisted meeting national energy targets and avoid the need to rely on energy productions which contribute to climate change.
“It is the council’s position the proposed windfarm will maintain and develop the region’s energy resources,” Mr Gilmour said.
Speaking after the hearing, he said EECA made it clear the opportunity to establish a renewable energy source outweighed the site specific disruptions in favour of national interests.
“Looking at the bigger picture, we need more electricity as we are using more and with out commitment to climate change, we just can’t go past an opportunity such as this.”
22 March 2007
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