Unique Mount Cass limestone bush ecosystems threatened by huge wind farm
The Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board is deeply concerned about a huge wind electricity generation scheme being proposed by Mainpower for Mt Cass near Waipara in North Canterbury. The Board recently visited to inspect the site to assess any likely damage that would result if the proposal goes ahead.
“The Board is not against wind farms. But the serious problem with the Mt Cass is it’s situation along a site which is very unusual and rare not only in Canterbury but also New Zealand,” says Board Chairman Dr Murray Parsons. “We’re stunned that Mainpower is even considering this site as they claim to be environmentally responsible and there are alternatives nearby.”
The Mt Cass ridge where Mainpower wants to build up to 83 wind generators over six kilometres, is covered in dense bush extending down gullies on either side, and is a unique limestone landscape with its own special ecosystem.
Mainpower is proposing to bulldoze a 10 metre wide access road, up to and along this ridge and construct massive concrete footprints of up to 240 square metres to support the construction of wind generators up to 80 metres in height.
“This will devastate ecosystems, plants, birdlife and insects, right along this ridge, removing huge areas of bush. Because of the relatively rare limestone landscape this bush provides refuge for many indigenous plant species which have been lost from most other limestone landscapes in Canterbury because of clearance and burning. At Mt Cass the dramatic bluffs and cliffs are inaccessible to stock and therefore relatively intact,” says Dr Parsons.
The Board says this kind of limestone landscape with outcrops and karst topography provides the habitat for 20% of nationally threatened plants, and Mt Cass supports plants that are not found anywhere else. It says these forests are the last remaining ecosystems of their type in Canterbury and are nationally worthy of preservation.
“Do we want to wreck this type of rare limestone landscape with its unique biodiversity just to generate more power and profits for Mainpower? This is galling for anyone concerned about conservation, particularly when there are alternative wind generation sites nearby which don’t have the same high conservation and recreation values.”
The Canterbury-Aoraki Board believes the area would make a superb regional park or reserve. There is already an easy walkway to the top of Mt Cass, which is readily accessible from Christchurch, and this could be extended along the Mt Cass ridge with extensive views over Pegasus Bay to Banks Peninsula and inland to the Southern Alps and the Kaikoura mountains.
It calls on Mainpower to reconsider its proposal, and consider nearby alternatives. This scheme will destroy one of the last remaining bush covered limestone landscapes in Canterbury and a nationally unique ecosystem.
Press Release: Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board
21 February 2008