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All Black hooker speaks out against Project Hayes  

Those who know All Black Anton Oliver in his other role as an environmentalist have supported his decision to speak out against Project Hayes, Meridian Energy’s 176-turbine wind farm planned for the Lammermoor Range.

The former All Black and Highlanders captain, who will tomorrow present a submission opposing the $2 billion project, was becoming increasingly interested in, and committed to, environmental issues, poet laureate Brian Turner said last night.

“˜”˜Anton has become increasingly concerned about the importance of environment and heritage issues, particularly in the South.”

The two became friends after Oliver (31) bought a house in the Central Otago hamlet of St Bathans in 2002.

Both are members of the Upland Landscape Protection Society, which opposes large-scale wind farms, and both will present their submissions tomorrow at the Central Otago District Council planning hearing into whether Project Hayes should proceed.

More than 1100 submissions were lodged, with numbers evenly split between supporters and those opposing the plan.

The hearing in Alexandra has already taken more than 18 days and is expected to close this week or next.

Uplands Protection Society spokesman Dr Richard Reeve said Oliver’s appearance and comments at the hearing were likely to attract many media representatives.

“˜”˜We have a lot of high-profile people in our organisation, not all of whom want to be named publicly. Anton has gone public and used his profile to an end he believes in. He is a contemporary Otago icon, so good on him for doing that.”

There was no doubt Oliver’s stance would raise awareness of the Project Hayes wind farm, and of other large-scale wind farms planned for southern South Island wilderness areas, Dr Reeve said.

“˜”˜Hopefully, this will finally wake the country up to the fact that we are about to lose a huge swathe of Otago’s natural hinterland to . . . the political and corporate juggernaut of wind farms.”

Oliver, who was part of the All Blacks’ win against France in Wellington on Saturday night, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a statement, he said Meridian Energy and its allies had tried to belittle opponents’ “˜”˜genuine arguments against this monstrosity”.

“˜”˜It’s a transparent attempt to divert attention away from the issues and concern about an inappropriate development which will have far-reaching effects on Central Otago’s landscapes.

“˜”˜Those of us who do know this backyard in fact have a responsibility to speak up.”

Meridian’s campaign seemed to have been one of “˜”˜half truths, misinformation and fudging information”, he said, suggesting it was “˜”˜tantamount to a government-sanctioned corporate rort”.

“˜”˜A German energy agency study released in February 2005 found that increasing the amount of wind power would increase consumer costs by 3.7 times and that the theoretical reduction of greenhouse gases could be achieved more effectively by simply installing filters on existing fossil fuel plants.

“˜”˜If anything, consumers are going to be left with a less reliable energy supply, more infrastructure and higher power prices . . .”

His comments will be familiar to Otago Daily Times readers. In an opinion column published in October, Oliver criticised Project Hayes, and a second smaller 100-turbine wind farm proposed by TrustPower for a nearby site near Lake Mahinerangi, dubbing them “˜”˜wind factories which would irrevocably change a fragile environment”.

Contacted yesterday, Meridian spokesman Alan Seay said he was “˜”˜indifferent” to Oliver’s stance.

“˜”˜Like everyone else, he is entitled to his view. That is what the hearing process is all about.’

By Allison Rudd and NZPA

Otago Daily Times

11 June 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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