Uncompromising evidence from an Aotea Harbour resident has forced the adjournment of a Resource Management Act hearing for the Te Uku wind farm until at least February.
It remains to be seen whether sail design consultant and aerodynamicist Sean Cox has scuttled Wel Networks’ plans to build a 28-turbine wind farm 3km south of Te Uku, but he has certainly blown the Ngaruawahia hearing off course for a few months.
Yesterday Wel networks successfully applied for an adjournment to the hearing to prepare a response to Mr Cox’s evidence after hearing chairman Michael Savage warned the company to take the former world wind-surfing champion’s submissions very seriously.
Mr Cox’s homespun, but highly technical, two-hour brief of evidence raised a host of doubts about the suitability of the project proceeding.
In a two-hour tour-de-force on Wednesday, Mr Cox set about debunking the economic case for the wind farm, its carbon emissions justification, the available wind resource at Te Uku, adverse noise and health effects, and challenged the expertise of some of Wel’s consultants.
Further, he asserted it would be unfair for Wel to suddenly introduce new technical evidence in reply, without him having a chance to respond to it.
Wel counsel Simon Berry said that given the importance of the matters and concerns about what would be allowed in terms of rebuttal evidence, the hearing should be adjourned until the end of January to allow Wel to prepare a substantive response to Mr Cox’s submission.
The commissioners agreed, but Mr Savage stressed this did not mean the whole case was being re-litigated, just technical issues related to noise, health, carbon emissions and wind resource.
At least 10 working days before the resumption of the hearing, Wel is to file further briefs of evidence and supply a copy to submitters. Then, within five working days any submitter who wishes to tender evidence in direct response to Wel’s further evidence must lodge that with Waikato District Council and Wel.
Wel Networks chief executive Julian Elder was philosophical about the delay.
“We are owned by the community and want to listen to the community,” he said. “We want to make sure all bases are covered and plans are appraised thoroughly.” He downplayed any sense of frustration at the new time frame.
“At the end of the day these processes are what they are. We are a community-owned organisation and not in a rush. We want to make it right.”
Mr Cox was not present to witness the result of his submission. But in his evidence he expressed incredulity at Wel’s attitude towards him.
“Wel refused to let me see their data and showed no interest in seeing mine,” he said. “I was dumbfounded. You have to understand that if you are planning a wind energy project and someone said they have 10 years of detailed wind data for the area, you would normally give an arm, and maybe a leg, to see it.
“Call me paranoid, but the only reason I could think of for this bizarre behaviour was they knew it was bad and intended to fudge it.”
By Bruce Holloway
30 November 2007
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