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Blow forces rethink for Tararua wind farm

Backers of a proposed wind farm near Palmerston North may scrap the plan after it was knocked back to almost half its size.

But residents are rejoicing at the resource consent ruling.

They said the farm would have been noisy and visually pollute the area.

After months of submissions and hearings, a group of three independent commissioners ruled that the proposed Motorimu wind farm can proceed, but with 75 turbines instead of 127.

Allco Wind Energy spokeswoman Christine Bowen said yesterday that the decision came as a great disappointment and the restrictions could see the whole wind farm, on the Tararua Range, near Scotts Rd, scrapped.

“The biggest issue is that the turbines along the ridge line – the ones that produce the highest yield – won’t be built. It significantly reduces the viability of the whole project.”

Ms Bowen said Allco, a New Zealand subsidiary of an Australian-owned company, was considering what to do next.

Options included appealing against the decision in the Environment Court or using fewer but larger turbines to match the initial planned output of enough electricity for 47,000 homes.

“On the one hand people want renewable energy, but they don’t want to see the turbines. But you just can’t escape it … you can’t build them in a valley,” she said.

Hundreds of submissions were received from the community during consultation, with up to 80 per cent against the wind farm.

Key concerns included visual pollution, the effect of noise on nearby homes and local Maori’s relationship to the ranges.

The commissioners ruled that the effect of the full wind farm on the landscape and residents outweighed the national importance of its renewable energy.

Sue Stewart, who led a group of locals opposing the wind farm, said she was pleased their concerns had been taken into account.

“It shows we don’t need renewable energy at any cost. The Manawatu have already done their bit – we’re saturated with wind turbines and it’s time to protect what natural ridge line we have left. Enough’s enough.”

A large chunk of the Ruahine and Tararua ranges were already dotted with turbines – some up to 120 metres tall.

Mrs Stewart said the full Motorimu wind farm would have stretched about 6km further south along the Tararua Range.

Together with a proposed 60 turbine farm in the Turitea Reserve, Motorimu would have put a complete line of turbines across Palmerston North’s horizon.

The Turitea Reserve proposal is before the Environment Court.

The reduced Motorimu farm would mainly be built in a basin on the Tararua Range, which would hide many of the turbines and keep them further away from nearby homes.

Mrs Stewart hoped the commissioners’ decision would set a benchmark for wind farm development in New Zealand and make power companies more flexible in dealings with locals.

“Often their idea of consultation was about telling people they were building an industrial wind farm. Perhaps this will lead to a more refined and flexible approach in terms of their effects and where they site them.”

The Dominion Post
Thursday, 28 June 2007