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Dunstan trail status unclear

It is still unclear what protection Old Dunstan Rd might receive if Meridian Energy is allowed to build its Project Hayes wind farm on the Lammermoor Range.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust had been concerned about the impact the proposed wind farm could have on the heritage values of Old Dunstan Rd, in particular archaeological features such as old gold workings, and visual protection of the road had also been a concern.

On Tuesday, the trust said it had come to an agreement with Meridian Energy and was withdrawing from the Environment Court appeal over Project Hayes, which is due to start in Alexandra on May 19.

The trust had been a section 274 party under the Resource Management Act, opposing the decision to grant consent to Meridian Energy to build the 176-turbine wind farm.

Yesterday, trust Southern general manager Malcolm Duff said no details of the negotiation or agreement between it and Meridian Energy would be available in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Duff said the matter was being worked over by “legal people” and he could not make any comment until it was finalised.

“What we said in our initial statement is all we can say,” he said.

The trust’s Central Otago branch committee member, Selar Henderson, said the committee was formally advised of the trust’s negotiations with Meridian Energy and its decision to withdraw its appeal before the public was notified.

Mr Henderson said the branch committee was not involved in either the negotiation process or the decision-making process.

“That’s just the way they [NZHPT] do things,” he said.

Mr Henderson said he had not been told what the agreement with Meridian Energy comprised, and therefore could not make any comment on it.

Former chairman Graye Shattky said he was disillusioned with the trust and the way it handled the withdrawal of its appeal against Project Hayes.

“They didn’t have to consult the branch committee but you would think they would, because Project Hayes is such an important issue for the whole of Central Otago,” he said.

Despite founding the branch committee two years ago, Mr Shattky did not stand for re-election this year because the trust does not authorise branch members to have a direct involvement in statutory matters, including resource consents or submissions to councils or courts.

It meant Mr Shattky, who personally opposes Project Hayes, was not able to have any direct involvement in the Environment Court appeal through his former role with the branch committee.

“I am still a member of the NZHPT and I’ve got great respect for what the trust does.

“I just find it sad that activist members can’t engage the trust in some of the matters which we believe are so important,” he said.

By Rosie Manins

Otago Daily Times

9 May 2008