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Developer: impacts on environment 'overstated'

Much of the valuable land originally proposed for the the Mahinerangi wind farm proposal has been spared, TrustPower says, while the company has possibly gone too far in evaluating the scheme’s environmental impact.

In the opening day of the Mahinerangi wind farm proposal yesterday, TrustPower counsel Jason Welsh said the project was vital for the future generation needs of the region and the country.

He said the design had been scaled back to a 200MW proposal after starting as a 600MW project. Its coverage had been reduced from the original proposal’s 5624ha to just 1723ha.

“The proposal currently before the committee represents a major refinement of earlier and much larger proposals,” he said.

The proposal had been scaled back to exclude sensitive ecological values, areas of visual and landscape value and archaeological sites. The number of turbines had also been scaled back to a maximum of 100.

“TrustPower had taken a fully informed and responsible approach to planning and designing the wind farm.”

The company’s approach had been to simply avoid all areas of high value and mitigate effects arising in other parts.

TrustPower intended calling 17 witnesses.

The proposal would not degrade the visual and scenic values and qualities of the Mahinerangi landscape and it might, in fact, become a feature and focal point in the wider landscape.

The wind farm would have high levels of visibility but that did not necessarily equate to correspondingly high levels of visual intrusiveness or adverse effects.

The landscape where the wind farm was being built was not deemed outstanding by independent experts.

He said consultation with the Department of Conservation had reached a successful conclusion and the department was no longer opposed to the project.

A comprehensive assessment of effects was carried out by a range of experts, he said.

“The expert analysis has, if anything, vastly overstated the potential effects that may arise.”

The proposal had been assessed on having 100 turbines of 3MW, but this had since been scaled down.

The precise, final turbine layout was yet to be decided, which was common industry practice, but the company had adopted an approach where actual and potential effects had been overstated.

“Even then, all independent experts have concluded that the outcome is an appropriate and sustainable one.”

TrustPower major projects manager Deion Campbell said the proposal was a significant project for the country. He said Trust-Power had taken an environmentfirst rather than an engineeringfirst approach to the project.

Mr Welsh said the construction of Project Hayes, about 20km from the edge of the proposed site, should be ignored as should the submission from Contact Energy raising issues about transmission problems.

He said predicted transmission problems were not an issue to do with TrustPower. Contact Energy’s submission was more to do with competition, he said.

By Steve Hepburn
Otago Daily Times

odt.co.nz

11 May 2007