November 2, 2007
New Zealand

Wind farm opponents face steep costs if Meridian taken to Environment Court

Opponents of the Project Hayes wind farm faced a bill of up to $90,000 if they chose to take Meridian Energy to the Environment Court, according to groups that have been through the process.

Consent was given to the energy giant this week to build a 176-turbine wind farm on the Lammermoor Range, south of Ranfurly.

Makara Guardians took Meridian to court over a 70-turbine wind farm that was approved for Wellington’s west coast.

The court upheld that decision but it trimmed four turbines off the original proposal and the height of the turbines was reduced from 125m to about 111m. The cost of the appeal was $89,000, of which $33,000 was covered by legal aid.

Guardians treasurer John Mills said the money was spent bringing in experts in noise pollution, resource consent law and landscape.

“You’ve got to get the very best experts … because you have to be credible. Emotion doesn’t count in court. It’s a dry, factual exercise.” Historian Patrick Parsons , a member of the Outstanding Landscapes Preservation Society, agreed.

The society took Unison Networks to the Environment Court twice over plans to add 37 turbines to a 15-turbine wind farm near Hastings.

“You need expert witnesses to maximise the value of your argument,” he said. The society spent $30,000 on a top solicitor and $15,000 on a resource consent expert.

Each challenge cost the society about $80,000, of which $30,000 was covered by legal aid. The society’s second challenge saw Unison’s approval revoked, a decision the power company is now challenging in the High Court.

Mr Parsons said that although an appeal could be expensive for Project Hayes opponents, it would be heard in front of the right people.

“… When you get to the Environment Court you’re immediately dealing with specialists who aren’t going to have the wool pulled over their eyes.”

By Will Hine

The Southland Times

2 November 2007

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