The Government has tagged the Project Hayes wind farm as a project of national significance and will oppose nine of the 11 groups and individuals appealing the decision.
Meridian Energy received consent to erect up to 176 wind turbines on the Lammermoor Ranges late last year.
Eleven appeals against the decision were received by the closing date in the middle of December.
Environment Court case manager Chris Jordan confirmed the Ministry for the Environment has joined the appeals under section 274 of the Resource Management Act (RMA).
The Crown had made a wholeof-Government submission in favour of the Project Hayes wind farm, co-ordinated by the Ministry for the Environment, he said.
Ministry media advisory Lester Thorley said in a statement this week the wind farm proposal raised matters of national significance as it had a high level of public interest, involved the significant use of energy and infrastructure, and had energy implications which extended beyond the Otago region.
He said the commissioners had approved the proposal, and the Crown was not appealing that decision, but had given notice, within the statutory timeframe, of its intentions to be a party to the proceedings.
The Crown favoured the proposal because wind power was a viable energy source that could help ensure security of energy supply by providing additional generation capacity and diversification of electricity production methods, and helped New Zealand address climate change issues, Mr Thorley said.
Richard Reeve, of the Central Otago Environmental Society Inc, condemned the Crown intervention.
‘‘As we suspected, the Government is trying to railroad prospects which we regard as highly inefficient, environmentally destructive, and not in any way for the national good,’’ he told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.
The issue of national importance was also raised by Project Hayes hearings panel chairman John Matthews who voted against the wind farm application. Mr Matthews referred to the national importance of the landscape as one of the reasons for his opposition.
Artist and Maniototo resident Grahame Sydney is a member of several groups opposing the wind farm. He was surprised and puzzled at this development.
‘‘I have had no dealings at all with the Ministry for the Environment and I have no idea why they are joining the appeal process,’’ he said.
Susan and John Elliot own one of the farms on which the wind farm would be built.
Mrs Elliot said it was good to see the Government coming out in support and recognising the wind farm as something of national significance.
‘‘This isn’t just for the Maniototo. It is bigger than that,’’ she said.
Under section 274 (1) of the RMA, submitters in the previous proceedings on the same matter may become a party to any proceedings before the Environment Court.
Those becoming a party to the appeal could either support or oppose the appeals. A total of 36 active parties, including the 11 original appellants, have been registered by the Environment Court.
By Diane Brown
26 January 2008
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