TrustPower will site more than 80% of the turbines for the Mahinerangi wind farm on exotic pasture land, and has called a rival power company’s proposed condition ‘‘nonsense’’.
At the Environment Court yesterday, the focus returned to the land after a week’s hearing on transmission issues, with the appeal against the wind farm by the Upland Landscape Protection Society resuming.
Ecologist Dr Ruth Bartlett said only four wind turbines would be planted on land covered with snow tussock. If the wind farm was to have 100 turbines, 83 of the turbines would be on exotic grasslands which had been highly modified.
TrustPower has yet to determine the exact number of turbines for the wind farm and would decide closer to construction.
The ecological survey of the 1723ha site had been extensive and the land had been resurveyed by an ecologist last December, after the consents had been granted to Trust-Power.
The area where the wind farm was to be sited was not listed as having any conservation values under the Clutha District Council’s district plan.
The wind farm was mainly on open plateau country, which was managed farmland. There was almost no shrubland and only a small area of snow tussock.
She said there was some flexibility in moving turbines to avoid rocky outcrops and high quality vegetation.
Of the block of land in the development envelope covered in snow tussock, just 1.4% would be covered by turbines, and the tussock could be rehabilitated through plant transfer.
TrustPower would also retire 68ha of land, placing it in covenant.
Weeds could invade the site, but there were methods to reduce their spread. Vehicles should keep to the tracks, be thoroughly cleaned, and clean aggregate should be sourced, with no weeds. The site would be regularly monitored.
All high and medium-valued gullies on the development envelope would not be used.
Only limited areas were preferred habitat for the grand skink. Skinks preferred to live on rocky outcrops and Trust-Power was avoiding those sites for turbines. A search for and removal of skinks would be undertaken before construction started.
Ecologist Dr Ian Boothroyd said the survey did not set out to identify every type of plant on the site, but instead identify the significant habitat.
Earlier, TrustPower counsel Les Taylor said Contact Energy’s proposed condition was nonsense and could not be applied under the Resource Management Act.
Contact Energy was seeking conditions on the consents to upgrade equipment to eliminate power bottlenecks at the Roxburgh substation and the line to the Waitaki Valley from Central Otago.
Judge Jeff Smith reserved his decision on Contact Energy’s appeal, which finished yesterday, and said he hoped to release a decision within three months.
That decision may not be released at the same time as the Upland Landscape Protection Society appeal.
By Steve Hepburn
6 May 2008
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