A group opposed to the construction of a wind farm already rejected by the Environment Court and High Court says it will challenge any move by Environment Minister Trevor Mallard to revive and fast-track the project.
Lines company Unison now wants to add 34 turbines to 15 already approved for a site on Te Waka Range near Te Pohue, on the Napier-Taupo Road.
Another company, Hawke’s Bay Windfarms, already has consent to erect 75 turbines nearby on the Titokura Saddle.
Unison tried last year to get consent for an extra 37 turbines, saying the original 15 were not viable on their own. The Environment Court rejected the plan, saying the cumulative effect of three sets of turbines on the skyline west of Hawke’s Bay would be excessive.
Judge Thompson also said Te Waka was an area of immense spiritual importance to Maori, and that must be taken into account. Unison appealed to the High Court, which upheld the judge’s decision.
While that case was working its way through the legal system, Unison lodged a second, slightly amended, application with Hastings District Council, for 34 turbines on Te Waka instead of 37.
The council sent that application straight to Mr Mallard, who announced several weeks ago that he would bypass normal consent procedures and send the application to a board of inquiry or the Environment Court, because it was a project of national significance.
Chris Crosse, of the Hawke’s Bay Outstanding Landscape Preservation Society, which opposed Unison’s earlier plans, said the group would challenge any fast-track consent process.
Allowing a further 34 or 37 turbines would result in 15 kilometres of them stretching along the skyline. “You can’t keep plastering the landscape with these things.
“It makes a farce of the whole process if the minister ignores everything that has gone before. It disregards the whole decision of the Environment Court, and that it has been upheld by the High Court.”
New Zealand should follow Europe and set a national policy on where wind farms could go, he said. Unison’s latest attempt to obtain consent would be a waste of everyone’s time and money.
“We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight to where we are now. Members of the public should be told upfront when they can’t win.”
By Kathy Webb
17 January 2008
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