November 1, 2007
New Zealand

Councils to defend wind farm ruling

Otago Regional Council and Central Otago District Council staff plan to defend any appeals against the Meridian Energy Project Hayes wind farm, despite accusations council approval of the development sets a precedent.

Central Otago Mayor Malcolm Macpherson said yesterday the decision to approve Project Hayes was now ‘‘owned’’ by the councils and it was their ‘‘statutory position’’ to defend it.

The comment came in response to a statement by Upland Landscape Protection Society member and artist Grahame Sydney, who said the consent not only allowed Meridian Energy to erect 176 wind turbines on the Lammermoor Range but set ‘‘a very horrible precedent’’.

‘‘I think it’s a very sad outcome for the future of Central Otago.

‘‘The more I read of the report, the more I see a door which has been bulldozed open for further wind farm applications to be approved.

‘‘I’m not sure the Otago Regional Council or the Central Otago District Council expected it to be approved. They are going to be very hard-pressed to find that decision is the right one, and . . . on reflection they will find it’s seriously flawed.

‘‘I think they’ve got a real problem, because this open door is going to be impossible to close.’’

Dr Macpherson said he had personal opinions about the decision but declined to comment further until after the appeals process was complete.

Regional council chairman Stephen Cairns said the application had gone through due process and had been successful, but that did not mean it would open the floodgates to having more wind farms approved in the region.

‘‘Good on Grahame Sydney for standing up and making his point. Unfortunately, I don’t share his opinion. Every application will be judged absolutely on its individual merit.’’

Meridian chief executive Keith Turner was unavailable for comment.

Both Sydney and Maniototo Environmental Society member Sarah Manson said it was too early to confirm if their respective societies would appeal the decision. It was an expensive process and neither organisation had the funds to launch an appeal at this stage.

Dunedin barrister Len Andersen said an appeal to the Environment Court was likely to require expensive and extensive technical evidence and take some time.

‘‘It would not be cheap and an appellant would need to be prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars possibly more. I would imagine it will be a complicated case.’’

Sydney said his group needed to investigate more before committing themselves to an appeal.

‘‘I hope there will be an appeal in some form or other. The Upland Landscape Protection Society is not particularly well funded. I think the best hope we have is that there may be an appeals court lawyer who feels sufficiently supportive of our stance to help us on a reduced fee.’’

By John Lewis

Otago Daily Times

2 November 2007

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