The Gore District Council may find itself hamstrung by its own district plan when trying to squeeze a financial contribution out of TrustPower for its $380 million wind farm, east of Mataura.
As the first week of the Gore District Council-Environment Southland joint resource consent hearing drew to a close yesterday, TrustPower’s last witness, planner John Kyle, warned that a “highly cautious” approach was needed in deciding if a financial contribution was warranted and, if so, how much it should be.
Under the district plan, financial contributions were assessed on a project’s adverse effect on the community, council utilities, roading or the environment, as well as its positive effects.
The maximum that could be awarded was 0.5 percent of a project’s cost. In the case of the windfarm that came to $1.9 million.
Mr Kyle submitted that the wind farm would make a positive environmental and financial contribution both locally and nationally.
TrustPower had already agreed to pay for any damage to roading during construction and the only adverse effect considered more than minor was to the view from three homes near the site, he said.
“On this basis no further environmental compensation is necessary and that should in my view be the end of the matter.” Mr Kyle accepted visual effects would draw a subjective response.
However, even if the hearing panel decided this was severe enough to warrant a financial contribution, Mr Kyle questioned how a monetary value would be placed on a view.
Kaiwera resident Cyril McFadzien told the hearing the Government had increased rentals for high country farmers because of the unspoiled panorama of mountains and river flats, which tourists pay big dollars for. Therefore, TrustPower should compensate local residents.
Mr McFadzien said he supported the wind farm but only if it paid a financial contribution and it was spent on those living within a 10km radius of the site.
TrustPower legal counsel Christian Whata said he would be arguing against a financial contribution in his closing address.
However, if the hearing panel was to consider imposing a financial contribution there may not be an absolute need to work it out now and it could be the subject of a review clause, he said.
SouthPort commercial manager Nigel Gear urged approval of the project, not only because of the additional business it would provide for the Bluff port. The wind farm was in line with Government policies of increasing renewable energy sources and it would ensure security of supply for the province, he said.
New Zealand Wind Energy Association chief executive Fraser Clark said the Kaiwera site was one of the best in New Zealand for a wind farm. From both a national and international perspective, it would have a high level of performance.
KAIWERA DOWNS WIND FARM:
* Capital cost $380 million
* $76 million of that spent directly in the Otago-Southland region
* Total economic impact during construction: $171 million
* Installed capacity 240MW, capable of meeting annual power demand of 100,000 homes
* 83 turbines maximum with a maximum height of 145m
* 115 new jobs during construction
* 7 or 8 fulltime equivalent staff during operation
* New Zealand’s fifth largest generator
* Fourth largest power retailer
* Started as Tauranga Electric Power Board established 1924
* Serves about 220,000 customers
* Manages about 34 power schemes
* Joint Gore District Council-Environment Southland hearing panel
* Members: chairman David Pullar, GDC Crs Cliff Bolger, Nicky Davis and Bret Highsted
* Hearing March 31 to April 9, Gore District Council chambers
* Written submissions – 43 against, 50 in support
By Sonia Gerken
5 April 2008