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Wind farm is 'Manhattan at back door'

Residents of the open, rolling hills of Kaiwera yesterday argued that the visual impact of the huge turbines proposed for the Kaiwera Downs wind farm would be like having Manhattan at their back door.

Collectively and individually residents of the area strenuously voiced their opposition to TrustPower’s proposed 83-turbine wind farm within a 2568ha site in their district.

For the first time since the joint Gore District Council-Environment Southland hearing started a week ago, the public gallery was full.

“What we lack in resources, we make up in passion,” warned Concerned Neighbours of the Kaiwera Downs Wind Farm group spokesman Henry McFadzien.

In its professional presentation, the group questioned why its area should be used and abused to generate power for consumers further north.

Wind farms should be built closer to the more populated main centres and heavy industry, such as the windy hills of Canterbury.

“There is no doubt in our mind there is a selective morality, when it comes to where wind farms are placed, by the powers that be,” Mr McFadzien said.

The group and individuals made submissions highlighting the project’s adverse effects on their lifestyles and livelihoods caused by noise, dust, traffic and, most importantly, the visual pollution of turbines.

While calling for the consent to be declined, residents nevertheless put up tight conditions should it go ahead. These included slashing the number of turbines from 83 to 50 and a maximum height of 110m.

At the proposed 145m, the turbines were as tall as a 48-storey building – “with 83 it will be like having Manhattan at our back door”.

Other conditions put up by the group included:

no turbines within 5km of a house

TrustPower pays for noise suppression insulation and double glazing on any house if turbines were within 5km

TrustPower to pay a development-impact levy to any landowner whose property is a physical neighbour of the wind farm envelope

TrustPower to pay a levy to the Gore District Council of no less than 1 percent of the value of the project; 75 percent to be used within a 10km radius of the wind farm

TrustPower to guarantee all land values within a 10km radius where turbines were visible or audible

Financial valuations to be done by TrustPower to value the visual effects on properties within a 10km radius from which the turbines are visible, and to negotiate an annual compensation fee to be paid for the life of the wind farm

TrustPower to set up a $150,000 scholarship for young people from the affected areas or the Mataura Licensing Trust catchment.

Mr McFadzien reminded the panel that Meridian had given generously to the Mossburn community for White Hills and the group did not think it was asking for very much.

“We get the impression TrustPower will come down on their terms.

“They are coming into our territory so should come in on our terms,” he said.

A landowner who has the White Hills turbines in her backyard urged electricity generators to look at power conservation instead of wind farms.

Christine Henderson, of Lumsden, said the turbines at Mossburn were like white gothic-style crosses that have spoilt the view she enjoyed for more than 30 years.

Instead of spending $380 million on Kaiwera Downs, TrustPower should be focusing on energy saving and negawatts.

Building more capacity before turning to negawatts was the same as “leaving the doors and windows open while turning up the heater”, Mrs Henderson said.

By Sonia Gerken

The Southland Times

9 April 2008