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Wellington wind farm makes muddy progress

A cold, wet start to winter has not slowed progress on a giant wind farm near Wellington, but locals say the work is causing heavy traffic and discolouring a river.

Meridian’s West Wind project near Makara got the green light from the Environment Court in May last year. Work started just before Christmas.

Construction of a temporary wharf at Oteranga Bay on the southwest coast is well advanced and should be finished by August.

In February it should take delivery of the first of 62 turbines that are 11 metres high.

They are being built in Holland, and will be shipped to Picton before being barged over to Oteranga Bay. Transpower’s Cook Strait electricity cable link already comes ashore there.

On the wind farm site, foundations have been laid for 22 of the turbines, and 1.2 million out of a planned 1.4 million cubic tonnes of earth has been shifted.

However, Makara farmer Graeme Hook said the earthworks discoloured the Makara River whenever it rained.

“It’s pretty disgusting out here at the moment.”

He said he had been “broadly supportive” of the West Wind project, which borders his land, “but I’m changing my mind a bit now”.

He had noticed a sharp increase in heavy traffic and “people driving fast” in the area.

Makara Guardians spokeswoman Jenny Jorgensen said the group was feeling “very frustrated” now the project’s construction was under way.

The group fought the project to the Environment Court.

“In a couple of years people are going to realise they’ve been duped. They will have lost this beautiful coast, and all to line the pockets of a state-owned enterprise.”

The increase in heavy traffic was also disruptive, she said.

Meridian spokeswoman Claire Shaw said disrupting the local community during construction was not intended.

“We’re committed to getting the job done as swiftly and safely as possible.”

By Paul Easton

The Dominion Post

stuff.co.nz

3 June 2008