Where do you want wind farms to go? How many do you want in Manawatu?
Residents may soon be able to answer those questions and have their demands backed up by legislation.
Horizons Regional Council has decided it’s time for local authorities to catch up with the times and get some clear rules on wind farms in their district plans.
“There has been a proliferation of windmills in the last two years,” Horizons chairman Garry Murfitt says.
“We believe those authorities have an obligation both under law and morally to ask their people what they think of wind farms, where they should go and where they should stop. We believe they should change their city or district plan in alignment with what their communities want.”
Chief executive Michael McCartney said the land use planning process needed to catch up to the rate at which wind farms were being rolled out.
This would enable people to see where wind farms could go in the future so they may plan around it.
District and city councils are responsible for granting wind farm consents.
Horizons wants each council to propose wind farm zones in the same way they zone for rural, industrial and urban areas.
These proposals would then be taken to the community for consultation.
Horizons is organising a forum for the mayors and chief executives of the Manawatu, Horowhenua and Tararua District councils as well as Palmerston North City Council to discuss the issue.
Tararua mayor Maureen Reynolds said she would attend, but was cautious of allowing the regional council control over the district planning process. She said Horizons had always been able to make submission to local authorities.
In regard to zoning she said power companies had to carry out extensive testing of areas before deciding if they were suitable spots for wind farms.
“If you are going to zone for it, you have got to look at where it is appropriate to zone.”
Manawatu Mayor Ian McKelvie said while it had no wind farms in the pipeline, there was potential on some of its coastal areas in the future.
He supported the idea of further discussion and consultation, but said in zoning wind farm areas you would also be effectively zoning non-wind farm areas. This could restrict the region’s ability to allow future development.
“The interesting thing in planning the future is that what we think is a good idea now can be very different in five years’ time.”
Mr McCartney agreed it would not be appropriate for communities to simply call for blanket bans on wind farms.
“We all know our country’s got energy issues. Here’s a way this region can, in a controlled and managed way, contribute towards that energy problem. People have different views around wind farms.
“The common thread we have found is that people want some certainty about where these things are likely to be in the future and that’s what the forum is for.”
The most recent public discussion on wind farms was for the proposed Motorimu site in the Tararua ranges. It received more than 200 submissions (the majority opposing) and the proposed operator recently apologised to the community for “less than perfect” consultation with residents.
For the time being both Mr McKelvie and Mrs Reynolds said the consents process was effective, but said they were happy to listen to Horizons’ suggestions.
A date has not yet been set for the forum.
By Nick Wildon
7 April 2007
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