A bombshell disclosure at yesterday’s Project Hayes wind farm hearing revealed land has been earmarked for another 113 turbines in addition to the 176 already proposed by Meridian Energy for its giant project on the Lammermoor Range.
The energy company downplayed the revelation but admitted additional turbines could not be ruled out.
The information was attached to a Contact Energy submission already presented to the Project Hayes wind farm hearing, but was not read publicly at the time.
Central Otago District Council planning consultant David Whitney yesterday included the information in his closing report on the second-to-last day of the hearing.
It showed the 176 turbines proposed for Project Hayes could be only stage one of the project.
Stage two involved initiating “˜”˜plan changes within the Dunedin City Council boundary”, and stage three the consent of another 113 turbines within the DCC boundary.
No specific site had been identified for the extra turbines, but Mr Whitney said it seemed land to the south and west of the Project Hayes site on the Lammermoor Range had been “˜”˜earmarked for additional wind turbines in the future”.
The possibility of extra wind turbines was being investigated but was just one of many options being considered nationwide, Meridian spokesman Alan Seay said when contacted last night.
“˜”˜We wouldn’t rule it in or out at this stage.”
He said the information about the extra 113 wind turbines was part of a confidential briefing made by Meridian to Contact Energy last year, to give Contact the “˜”˜widest possible context of what could happen” with Meridian’s wind farm development.
The hearing was yesterday adjourned to next Friday to allow Meridian time to compile its right of reply. Mr Seay said counsel for Meridian, Andrew Beatson, would respond to the issue in his closing submissions on that day. He would not comment further.
The information about the extra wind turbines was theoretically already public, after being tabled at a public hearing, but it was an attachment and “˜”˜buried in the papers”, Mr Whitney said when contacted after yesterday’s hearings.
He realised making it part of his report would make it more public.
He believed it explained a reluctance from Meridian last year to provide more information for its application, when the council asked if the wind farm could be shifted further inland from its proposed site, away from the ridge line above the Paerau Valley.
Meridian had not responded to the question, but when he saw the information about the extra turbines tabled at the hearing he believed it did not want to relocate the turbines because the land was already earmarked for more, Mr Whitney said.
“˜”˜I thought “˜here seems to be an answer to why they couldn’t push it back’.”
Dunedin city councillors contacted last night were taken by surprise at the information.
The council’s planning and environment committee voted to oppose the present wind farm plan last November after discovering it could have significant adverse effects on Dunedin, including about 80,000 vehicle movements through Mosgiel and surrounds, even though the development would be built outside the city boundaries.
Cr Michael Guest, chair of the
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By Pam Jones and Debbie Porteus
15 June 2007
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