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Blow for Meridian wind farm project  

The huge Project Hayes wind farm would be visible from many parts of Central Otago and should be turned down, a major planning report says.

The report was released yesterday by the Central Otago District Council, which received 1062 submissions on Meridian Energy’s plan to build New Zealand’s biggest wind farm on the Lammermoor Range. Just over half the submissions support the project.

In his 186-page report, planning consultant David Whitney recommends the Project Hayes application be refused, citing the significant effects the wind farm would have on the environment, and in particular, the visual impact from many different locations.

Meridian wants to install up to 176 wind turbines with a generation capacity of 630MW. The planned turbines are 160m high and the wind farm site covers 92sq km.

The Central Otago Transitional District Plan makes no provision for the project but it could be considered a discretionary activity under the proposed district plan.

Mr Whitney’s report said the turbines would be visible from many places and would have a “significant adverse effect”.

He questioned why such a large group of turbines was necessary, asking why they could not be established in small, scattered groups.

The report said the wind farm would clearly be visible to users of Te Papanui Conservation Park, with the closest turbine just 4km away from the park.

Heritage and landscape values on Old Dunstan Rd would also be significantly affected, the report says.

The potential for ecosystems to be damaged by fine-sediment run-off from the large area of soil exposed during the construction period was also raised.

An ecological assessment said removal of vegetation for the project, which would result in a loss of habitat for fauna, is a real threat.

Mr Whitney said noise from the wind farm’s transmission site would be a significant adverse effect, but traffic effects could be mitigated.

Aviation requirements would mean up to 36 turbines would display red lights flashing between 20 and 60 times per minute.

A submission from the Ministry for the Environment, lodged on behalf of the Crown, covered several positive effects, including the fact that wind was a viable energy source and the development of the wind farm would ensure supply through providing additional generating capacity and diversification.

Wind power was also seen to be an environmentally responsible energy source.

In his report, Mr Whitney listed 79 conditions that should be applied should the hearings panel decide not to accept his recommendation to refuse consent.

They included painting the turbine blades in low reflectivity paint, opening and maintaining a complaints register and strict noise conditions.

The conditions would include upgrading the Ida Valley-Omakau road and installing stopping bays on SH87 to minimise traffic disruption on SH87 between Outram and Clarks Junction.

Joint hearings for the wind farm project applications to the Central Otago District Council and the Otago Regional Council begin in Alexandra on April 30 and will run for three consecutive weeks, from Monday to Thursday each week, with possibly extension into following weeks if needed.

By Diane Brown
Otago Daily Times


11 April 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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