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Kaiwera wind farm ruling delayed at least a month  

Trustpower and people living near its proposed 83-turbine wind farm at Kaiwera will have to wait at least a month, probably longer, before finding out whether the project gets the green light from the Gore District Council’s hearing commissioners.

Yesterday, at the close of seven days of evidence for and against the $380 million project, hearing panel chairman David Pullar adjourned the hearing until next Friday to allow any matters that may arise to be dealt with. At that time, if all parties were satisfied, the hearing would be formally closed.

The statutory timeframe for resource consent hearing panels to deliver their findings was 15 working days. However, given the volume and complexity of submissions, the Gore District Council-Environment Southland joint hearing panel of Mr Pullar and Gore district councillors Bret Highsted, Cliff Bolger and Nicky Davis may take longer.

Mr Pullar said a decision would be released “as soon as practicable”.

After hearing all the evidence, the only issue not disputed was that the Kaiwera Downs wind farm would be huge. With 83 turbines, it would be TrustPower’s largest wind farm to date and, at 145m tall, the turbines would be highest in use in New Zealand. Even the site is large, a 2658ha development envelope 10km to the east of Mataura.

Visual and noise pollution, both during development and when it was operational, for those living and working near the wind farm were the two major concerns raised.

The council’s landscape architect David McKenzie and planning consultant Allan Cubbitt yesterday agreed the wind farm would significantly change the character of the landscape. But opinions on their effect would vary from positive to negative, Mr McKenzie said.

In summing up, TrustPower legal counsel Christian Whata, of Auckland, reiterated the importance of the project.

TrustPower was cognisant of the fears of landowners. However, the critical goal was to ensure a proper balance between landowners’ aspirations to protect their views, on the one hand, and the district, regional and national interest in renewable energy generation, on the other.

“This involves compromise, not a veto to protect views.” Mr Whata rejected financial conditions put forward by landowners, such as compensation for any potential impact on land values.

However, TrustPower would keep open an offer to indemnify residents on the basis set out in a confidential letter and it would offer a landscape mitigation proposal, within six months of consent being granted, to three homeowners most affected by the turbines, he said.

The details of the compensation letters continue to remain private, even though some residents attached them to their evidence.

In arguing to keep details of the letters suppressed, Mr Whata said the issue was not only the content of the letters but the entire process of dealing on a private commercial basis.

TrustPower’s proposed consent condition would delay quantifying the amount of any levy until its proposal was finalised.

Before obtaining building consent, the company would submit a report fully assessing all effects of the project, mitigation proposals and what it saw as an appropriate financial contribution.

The council could accept or reject the proposal. If it did the latter, it was able to review the consent condition, Mr Whata said.

Mr Cubbitt had suggested leaving any decisions about a financial contribution until building consent was applied for. Under its district plan, the council can request a maximum of 0.5 percent of a project’s cost, which would equal $1.9 million in the case of the wind farm.

By Sonia Gerken

The Southland Times

11 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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