Project Hayes panel chairman John Matthews has released a 12-page statement explaining his reasons for voting against the Lammermoor wind farm proposal.
Mr Matthews, a Queenstown barrister, voted with fellow commissioner David McMahon to approve the Otago Regional Council consents required for the project, but against all four commissioners for the Central Otago District Council consents required.
He was chiefly concerned with landscape values, the appropriateness of the development and the setting of precedent, including his statement within yesterday’s decision released by the panel.
‘‘If a proposal of this significance is found to be appropriate in an area of Outstanding Natural Landscape, it is difficult to see how any consent authority could fail to apply the ‘‘like for like’’ principle on a future occasion,’’ Mr Matthews said.
‘‘It has the potential, in my view, to set a benchmark in the sense that if this proposal can be approved, any other proposal on similar landscapes and up to a similar size, should similarly be able to be approved.’’
Mr Matthews said he had dissented from the view of the majority in the panel about whether the landscape was classified as Outstanding Natural Landscape. He thought that it was, taking into account natural science factors, aesthetic values, expressiveness, transient values like light conditions, and tangata whenua and historical associations.
Mr Matthews referred to the ‘‘wide range of artistic disciplines within which the light, the memorability, and other special qualities of the landscapes of this kind, in Central Otago, have been recorded and applauded, and through publication by artists eminent in their fields have been dissipated and shared with others.’’ He listed 65 artists with connections to the Lammermoor Range who had been referred to during the Project Hayes hearing.
He said evidence from landscape architect Stephen Brown that suggested ‘‘if one has to put a large scale wind farm in Otago, this may be one of the better places to put it’’ was, with respect, the incorrect way to assess the proposal.
Landscapes should not be considered only on a local level or compared to other landscapes, but rather by determining if their protection from inappropriate use was a matter of national importance, and whether the landscape itself was outstanding, ‘‘not whether it is of more or less quality than another landscape in the same district.’’
The outstanding nature of the landscape and the substantial scale of the wind farm made it an inappropriate development, he said.
The development of electricity from renewable resources and international treaty obligations to reduce greenhouse gases were important in the final balancing of all factors.
‘‘In my view, however, the balance lies against granting consent.’’
The adverse effects on the site’s heritage and rural amenity were also factors in his decision, Mr Matthews said.
By Pam Jones
1 November 2007
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