The main opponent of the Mahinerangi wind farm says the project’s benefits are “simply puffery”, and evidence produced by the Crown was nothing more than window dressing.The Upland Landscape Protection Society made its submission at the Environment Court hearing for the wind farm in Dunedin yesterday.
It produced no evidence.
Society co-ordinator Ewan Carr said the wind farm can only provide for 40% of the country’s annual energy growth, of 175MW.
“The wind farm has a very large footprint and unavoidable effects for comparatively little gain,” Mr Carr said.
The proliferation of wind farms throughout the country had the potential to seriously and negatively impact on New Zealand landscapes.
There had been little evidence presented which proved wind generation would replace carbon-placed generation.
“The issues of national-importance-alleged benefits as set out by TrustPower are simply puffery.”
The positive effects, as expounded by TrustPower, were largely based on lofty and scientifically unrealistic ambitions, he said.
Wind energy was unreliable, unpredictable, and generally a poor quality of energy.
TrustPower said the wind farm did not affect an outstanding natural landscape, but Mr Carr said it was surrounded by the Te Papanui Conservation Park and Strath Taieri hills, an area classed as outstanding natural landscape.
The project site was cradled in outstanding natural landscape to the west, north, and the northeast, he said.
There was no outstanding natural landscape in the Clutha District Council’s district plan.
The court heard a preliminary list of outstanding natural landscape in the Clutha district did not include the wind farm landscape.
Mr Carr said the Crown’s evidence was window dressing.
The Environment Court relied on factual evidence, and the Crown, which supported the proposal, offered no hard scientific evidence concerning the Kyoto Protocol and climate change.
The decision by the Clutha District Council and the Otago Regional Council to accept the consent applications and accept the development envelope was fatally flawed, he said.
The envelope approach by TrustPower had been replaced by a more detailed approach to the siting of turbines.
Mr Carr said the envelope approach created serious concerns, and the vagueness of the application gave rise to requests for more information, but that was never forthcoming.
The councils failed in their role as “gatekeepers”.
The stated benefits of the wind farm were at best speculative and unsubstantiated.
“These types of developments and the unavoidable effects they have on communities and regions must raise the bar of the quality and quantity of information provided at the outset.
“This has been an attempt to lower the bar.”
TrustPower counsel Les Taylor started his right of reply yesterday, and was expected to conclude today.
Panel: Judge Jeff Smith, commissioners Diane Menzies, Russell Howie, and Charles Manning.
Project: TrustPower gained approval for a $400 million 200MW wind farm at Mahinerangi last September.
Players: Has been appealed by Contact Energy on transmission issues, and the Upland Landscape Protection Society for various reasons, including visual effect on landscape. Meridian Energy and the Ministry for the Environment, on behalf of the Crown, are also appearing.
Scheduled for today: TrustPower counsel Les Taylor to complete his right of reply.
Quote of the day: “This envelope should have been marked return to sender and dispatched for further information.” – Upland Landscape Protection Society co-ordinator Ewan Carr commenting on the now abandoned development envelope approach taken by TrustPower.
By Steve Hepburn
14 May 2008
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