A group of Makara residents are still battling Meridian Energy over wind turbines, despite the turning of the first sod for construction in late September. The Environment Court has given Meridian the go ahead for its commercial wind farm, ‘West Wind’, at Makara, but with conditions attached. It is those conditions that have opposition group, the Makara Guardians, asking how effective the farm will be. The court has warned Meridian they will have to turn off the turbines or derate them when noise levels became unacceptable. It described ‘unacceptable’ as a level sufficient to cause severe annoyance and or sleep deprivation. Jenny Jorgenson, president of the Makara Guardians, says recent information from the Trust Power T3 turbines in Manawatu shows noise from 2.2kms away is causing people to be woken up. “They can’t sleep,” she says. “Well, there are five houses within 1km of the proposed Makara turbines, and two are as close as 700m. “How can Meridian be sure the project is viable if they will have to keep turning the turbines off?” The Guardians have filed an appeal in the High Court and applied for a rehearing in the Environment Court based on the Manawatu evidence and new information from overseas. “Makara can’t be the best site nationally,” says Ms Jorgenson. “The entire country lies within the ‘roaring forties’, we can do wind power when it’s in the appropriate place, away from families, then its win-win for everybody.” Makara locals also point to a recent report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the environment that recommended small clusters of small turbines as the way forward for NZ, not ‘think big’ projects. They say the Electricity Commissioner warned that large wind farms would require upgrades to the grid, while smaller ones would not. “The government is ignoring these recommendations,” Ms Jorgenson says. “They are placing marginal profits over the wellbeing, health and safety of people and communities.” The Guardians are calling for a moratorium on the construction of commercial wind turbines within 2km of homes, whether or not resource consent has been granted, pending ‘national guidelines’ on wind power development. Meridian says that with Wellington’s superb natural wind, the turbines will provide enough electricity to power up to 110,000 homes. “This is equivalent to all the households in Wellington City, Lower Hutt and Porirua.” Meridian says that noise from West Wind should not be a significant adverse effect. They say they have analysed wind turbine design, site terrain and the proximity of houses to ensure sound from the wind farm will comply with the NZ standard and the adverse effects from noise will be no more than minor.
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