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Otago wind-farm opponents suffer setback  

An opponent of a $400 million wind farm planned for Otago was dealt a blow on the opening day of an Environment Court appeal hearing.

The Upland Landscape Protection Society announced it was seeking an adjournment 10 minutes into a three-week hearing over TrustPower’s 100-turbine proposal for Lake Mahinerangi, 50km west of Dunedin.

The request was denied.

Society member Ewan Carr had argued the hearing should be adjourned to allow a judicial review in the High Court over the Mahinerangi proposal and Meridian’s planned $1.5 billion Project Hayes wind farm.

He said the society had also not heard if its application to the Government’s Environmental Legal Assistance (ELA) fund had been successful.

Asked if the appeal hearing would be a waste of time because of the judicial review, TrustPower barrister Les Taylor replied it would be if there was a real issue “and not a last-minute appeal to throw a spanner in the works”.

Judge Jeff Smith and three commissioners unanimously denied the open-ended adjournment application.

The society had not followed the court’s directions, laid down five months earlier and its reasons for the application were not valid, the court ruled.

The court also allowed one of TrustPower’s key landscape witnesses, Frank Boffa, to appear today because he leaves for the United States tomorrow.

Ironically, in the afternoon the society heard it had been allocated $30,000 in ELA funding.

But Carr’s plea to the court to put off Boffa, giving the society more time to engage and instruct a lawyer, was denied.

Carr described the adjournment’s denial as disappointing but understandable.

“We had an expectation it would be very difficult to achieve an adjournment, given the fact the society didn’t have its socks up.”

Carr said the society had the same chance of winning and it would still pursue its High Court action.

The society, which appealed the Mahinerangi proposal on broad grounds including environmental concerns, will call no witnesses and, as of yesterday, had not engaged a lawyer.

The Press


15 April 2008

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