Opponents of a wind farm planned for a ridgeline west of Hawke’s Bay are celebrating after winning an Environment Court appeal.
Hastings-based lines company Unison was granted permission by Hastings District Council to add 37 turbines to 15 for which it already had consent along the Te Waka Range skyline, around the Titiokura Saddle on the Napier-Taupo Road.
But the Environment Court said the cumulative visual effects of the 37 extra turbines and another 75 turbines to be built alongside them by Hawke’s Bay Windfarms would be excessive in a sensitive and distinctive landscape.
The extra turbines would also go against Maori spiritual values, including the site’s history, water and sacred areas.
Unison said it was disappointed and would appeal.
Environment Court judge Craig Thompson said “it was impossible not to absorb some of the depth of emotion expressed … about the attachment of people to this area. It not only defines one of the boundaries of their tribal rohe, or districts, it also helps define them as individuals, and as tribal and family groups.
“We have concluded that this proposal does not promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources”.
Napier historian Patrick Parsons, who helped the Outstanding Landscape Protection Society in its battle against the turbines, said the decision was a victory for Maori spiritual values and for the values of outstanding natural landscapes.
He predicted it would set a precedent with far-reaching implications for other planned wind farms.
“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time landscape has won out over turbines.
“I predict other Maori organisations faced with a similar situation will take heart and realise it is worth lodging an appeal.”
It would also deter wind-farm developers from setting their sights on other distinctive landforms, such as the Ruahine or Kaweka ranges, or Kahuranaki, near Havelock North.
“We’re not anti-wind farm, but there is a lack of a national policy about where they can go. At the moment, all national landscapes are up for grabs.”
Wellington lawyer Tania Hopmans, who helped Ngati Tu with its case, said she was not sure whether the decision would have repercussions for Meridian’s planned wind farm at Makara, near Wellington.
However, it showed Maori concerns deserved weighting in environmental decisions, and that the Government’s enthusiasm for wind farms should not override considerations such as spiritual values.
By Kathy Webb
The Dominion Post
18 April 2007
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