After a suggestion by Environment Court Judge Jon Jackson in Alexandra yesterday, the Central Otago District Council will call expert witnesses to explain the effect noise may have on residents living near the proposed Project Hayes wind farm.
He did so after learning from the CODC’s counsel that no expert witnesses would be called to give evidence on other than landscape and visual effects, and planning.
Judge Jackson and three commissioners will hear appeals on the council hearings panel’s decision to recommend the wind farm, subject to conditions. At a conference of the participants and representatives yesterday, he heard there will be between 78 and 81 witnesses, and the case will begin on May 19. Parts may be heard in Cromwell or Queenstown.
The opening address will be made by Meridian Energy and will be followed by evidence from expert witnesses on construction, including traffic and sediment issues, followed by landscape and historic-heritage issues.
The hearing will then adjourn until July 28 when it will continue for four weeks. Judge Jackson said he favoured expert witnesses meeting before the hearing to prevent double-ups in evidence, but he was ‘‘not enthusiastic’’ about that happening on landscape and visual issues because this was not usually productive.
He asked each counsel separately if they would be presenting expert witnesses in each of the numerous categories into which the hearing would be divided. The CODC’s counsel, Graeme Todd, said written evidence would be supplied from a couple of witnesses regarding the landscape and visual effects. No expert witnesses were offered by Mr Todd for any of the other categories, with the exception of planning, where the council’s planner, David Whitney, was named. Mr Todd told the court another planner would also be available.
Judge Jackson suggested the CODC might want to consider calling in an expert witness on the effect noise might have on residents living near the proposed wind farm.
‘‘It would be nice to think the CODC had called some experts in to look at that area and use some of their tax money.’’
Mr Todd agreed.
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times outside the court, Maniototo Environmental Society (MES) member Grahame Sydney said he was baffled how the CODC could promote the district on its grandeur and natural beauty of landscape and back the consent, while also believing it represented its ratepayers without having consulted them.
‘‘The judge’s evident puzzlement about the lack of expert witnesses being provided by the CODC certainly reflects MES’s and we were pleased to see that he noted that,’’ Sydney said
Central Otago Environmental Society president Graye Shattky was also critical of the lack of support from the CODC.
‘‘I am angry that ordinary citizens are having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money and their time and effort to do something that the council should be doing
‘‘Where is the leadership and what is their position in terms of defending the Central Otago environment?
‘‘The council is not bound to support the panel decision on Project Hayes.’’
The CODC did not wish to comment on the issues raised in the conference.
29 January 2008
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