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Noise expert welcome if we don't pay: council

A noise expert could be called in to assess effects from the Project Hayes Wind Farm, as long as the Central Otago District Council does not have to pay for it.

The issue was discussed at yesterday’s Central Otago District Council meeting after the commissioner for the wind farm hearings, Judge Jon Jackson, asked if the council would consider having an independent noise expert to assess an appeal application.

Planning and environment committee chairman John Lane said the council had a responsibility to provide the expert.

“If we sit back and do nothing, there will be another barrage of letters to the paper.” Cr Neil Gillespie asked why the council should pay so others could be proved right or wrong.

He saw no reason to spend $45,000 of ratepayers’ money on what would probably only support Meridian Energy’s evidence, he said.

Cr Gillespie’s stance was supported by Cr Tony Lepper, who said there should be enough evidence available from existing wind farms to negate the need for an expert.

Council chief executive John Cooney said the council could compromise by agreeing to provide a noise expert as long as funding came from a government agency such as the Ministry for the Environment.

The idea of the compromise was embraced by the councillors, who agreed to allow the council to pursue the option.

The Environment Court appeal will be heard in two stages.

The first stage will start on May 19 and be held over two weeks, with the second starting on July 28 and taking four weeks. There will be no hearings during the week beginning August 11.

By Barbara Withington

The Southland Times

28 February 2008