State power company Meridian Energy has won resource consent to build a huge wind farm in Central Otago, but that is not the last word on the $1.5 billion project.
The Central Otago District Council and the Otago Regional Council yesterday issued a resource consent to Meridian for a proposed 176-turbine wind farm, called Project Hayes, said to be the biggest in the world.
Project Hayes has high-profile opponents such as All Black Anton Oliver, now in France, Central Otago landscape artist Grahame Sydney and poet Brian Turner.
The Government might want most of New Zealand’s electricity to be produced from renewable energy sources such as wind farms by 2025, but objectors in Otago are vowing to fight on to keep the landscape free of the huge turbines and are looking at lodging an appeal with the Environment Court.
Meridian is the country’s biggest wind and hydro-electricity company and won a 2< <1/2-year battle to build a 62-turbine wind farm on the outskirts of Wellington against a small community just as passionately objecting to it as Oliver, Sydney and Turner are to the wind farm on the Lammermoor Range, 70km north-west of Dunedin. While round one has gone to Meridian, for Sydney the fight is far from over. "I don't imagine anyone is going to lie down and watch this happen," he said. Sydney is a member of the Upland Landscape Protection Society opposing the project. The society is likely to lodge an appeal in the 20 working days allowed for that after the resource consent decision. "I would be absolutely astounded if there was no appeal," Sydney said. The decision of the panel of commissioners hearing the resource consent was not unanimous. Panel chairman John Matthews dissented from the majority panel view. Sydney said Matthews feared the consent would open the floodgates of applications for wind farms in the region. About 23 were being talked about and in various stages of planning in Central Otago, Sydney said. Matthews was concerned national interests were being placed ahead of the region's interest in a special landscape, he said. Turner is distressed by the decision and said it was another example of the contempt some in New Zealand had for the natural environment. "New Zealand in my lifetime has just plundered the South and it continues to do so." He lashed out at the Government for instructing the Ministry of the Environment and the Department of Conservation not to oppose the wind farm. "The whole thing is really rancid," Turner said. The resource consent has conditions attached, but Meridian chief executive Keith Turner said "at first blush" they looked similar to what Meridian had proposed in its application. However, the state-owned enterprise still had to complete a thorough reading of the consent and to decide if it would appeal against any of the conditions. They require Meridian to submit environmental and traffic management plans for approval before starting construction. There was work in building the wind farm for local companies, and he said about four companies in New Zealand had the capability to build the tower sections of the wind turbines and reduce the amount of equipment Meridian would have to buy overseas. If there was no appeal, Meridian could start building the wind farm in early 2009 and have the first power by late 2010, Turner said. Oliver, who lives near St Bathans, lashed out at Meridian in the consent hearing in June, saying the company was not to be trusted. Keith Turner said Oliver was a great All Black but not a great energy analyst, and Meridian's survey had shown strong support for Project Hayes, with 85 per cent of Otago people wanting it. By Marta Steeman The Press www.stuff.co.nz
1 November 2007
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