The Waverley wind farm consent hearing has been called off at the request of the applicant 18 days before it was due to start.
Allco Wind Energy is being sold by its Australian parent company to reduce debt, but a director says he is confident a new owner will continue with the Waverley project.
The South Taranaki District Council has sent letters to the 127 submitters, advising them the hearing has been delayed for possibly two months. Their written evidence was required by tomorrow for the May 5 hearing.
Roger Dickie, an adjoining land owner, says he is furious about the delay. “It’s stopping progress on our coastal subdivision development. Allco is just playing for time till they get a sale and we’re taking legal advice on whether the council can simply agree to this delay.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on this issue and I hope the council is charging Allco for costs incurred.”
Allco told the council at 11.30am last Friday that it could not provide the evidence required for the hearing by the deadline, which was that same day.
Senior planner Blair Sutherland said he knew Allco was selling its global wind assets, but the requested hearing delay was unexpected.
“All this means is the hearing will be delayed for two months. I would expect it would continue with a new applicant. They may have a different approach, they may even withdraw it at any time,” he said.
Asked whether the council considered telling Allco to return with a fresh application, and invoicing the company for costs incurred, Mr Sutherland said: “We will have to decide this week whether we bill them. I haven’t totalled the cost yet.
“We were asked to consider postponing the hearing, it’s a legitimate request and we have some discretion, but we agreed to it.”
Any further comment would have to come from his manager, Graham Young, who was not available yesterday.
Allco technical director Bernhard Voll said from Los Angeles, where he is involved in negotiations to sell its 3100 MW Tehachapi wind project, that the delay was requested because key staff were involved in an Environment Court appeal over the declined Motorimu wind farm consent in southern Manawatu.
“It’s taken a lot more work than we expected, plus I am tied up with the asset sales,” he said. “We thought a two-month delay would allow us to prepare our case better and properly address the issues raised by submitters.
“There are parties very interested in buying our Australia and New Zealand wind energy assets. Waverley Wind Farm Ltd is a fantastic project. The consent application is completed, the wind data shows it’s a very good site, there are good land contracts, easy construction, and strong local support. Potential investors like it.”
Mr Voll says there are no carbon credits involved, only penalties. Carbon-free wind producers would not be penalised but they could sell power at hopefully higher prices than non- renewable producers.
Mr Voll says he will lose his job along with many other specialist Allco staff, but he expects to be re-employed by the new owner.
“I think we will sell the business by late July. The Waverley hearing will proceed, the new owner will build the farm and I doubt there will be a further postponement. There will be no problem paying a council bill.”
Daily News; New Plymouth, New Zealand
23 April 2008
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