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Preserve whole landscape say wind farm opponents

The Maniototo Environmental Society will try to prove to the Environment Court this week that “apparent gaps” in Meridian Energy’s evidence are significant enough for its wind farm to be declined.

On week two of the hearing in Cromwell, Wellington law firm Morrison Kent, representing the group, opened its submission claiming that Meridian was failing in its duty to protect and preserve the landscape.

Counsel Ian Gordon said the effects of Project Hayes were significant and adverse and the gaps in evidence made the effects even more adverse than present assessment allowed.

The wind farm site is surrounded by areas already protected for their natural and/or landscape values, including the Te Papanui Conservation Park (4km away), and the Taieri Rapids Scenic Reserve.

Under the Resource Management Act, the preservation of the natural character of lakes and rivers and their margins is a matter of national importance.

Mr Gordon said outright preservation had to be recognised and provided for, not preservation from inappropriate use and development.

But Judge Jon Jackson questioned counsel about how one would allow development and still preserve something.

Mr Gordon said there was some irony in the fact Meridian believed the character of the site would not be unacceptably altered by 176 turbines, while the Old Dunstan Rd, the transmission line and the Logan Burn dam have been said to materially alter the character of the setting.

The energy company was also criticised for trying to achieve an appropriate balance between the interests of the public and those affected by the project.

“That balancing seems to involve identifying a pocket of landscape surrounded on all sides by conservation land, and land recognised for outstanding landscape values, and filling that pocket to its edges with the turbines,” he said.

By Aimee Wilson

The Southland Times

27 May 2008