Trustpower’s $400 million Kaiwera Downs wind farm, near Gore, has been granted consent, but that is likely to be appealed.
The 240MW wind farm, 15km southeast of Gore, was approved yesterday by the Gore District Council and Environment Southland after the application was heard at an eight-day hearing in March and April.
But an opponent of the development, Henry McFadzien, said an appeal will probably be made to the Environment Court, although he had doubts whether an appeal could be funded right through to a court hearing.
In its decision yesterday, the hearing panel said the positive effects of the wind farm, at a national level, outweighed the negative visual effects.
The panel said the visual effects within 15km of the site could not be suitably mitigated, but they could be offset by a development contribution of $800,000 by TrustPower to the Gore District Council.
All other effects of the wind farm were described as minor or less than minor.
TrustPower community relations manager Graeme Purches said the company was very pleased with the decision.
“It is a project that, had it been in place right now, it would have made a significant contribution to [alleviate] the [power shortage] problems we have now,” he said.
“If this had been there a year ago, we would not be in the strife that we are now.”
But engineer and energy analyst Bryan Leyland, of Auckland, when approached for comment yesterday, said records over the past six years showed the wind did not blow much during late summer, autumn, and winter.
He said the Kaiwera Downs project would produce 100MW of power during winter at most.
Of the 1787MW being consumed in the South Island at 4.30pm yesterday, about 500MW was being transported south from the North Island through the Cook Strait cable.
Mr Purches said provided there were no appeals to the Environment Court, designing the wind farm, which would be built in two or three stages, would start this year.
The company would also start talking to turbine manufacturers, although there was a shortage of turbines at present.
TrustPower would not decide on the type and power output of turbines until it finalised the design of the wind farm.
Mr Purches said the project had not attracted as many opponents as other wind farms, such as Meridian Energy’s Project Hayes on the Lammermoor Range and TrustPower’s Mahinerangi wind farm on the nearby Lammerlaws.
Farmer Henry McFadzien, who led the Concerned Neighbours against the Kaiwera Downs wind farm group, said he was disappointed with the decision.
He wondered why it had taken more than two months when TrustPower had got everything it asked for.
Mr McFadzien said the group, which was not an incorporated society, intended to appeal, but did not have enough money to take the matter to an Environment Court hearing.
Another farmer who opposes the scheme, Alex Moody, said he, too, was disappointed with the decision.
The turbines would be seen from his window.
Mr Moody said the wind farm proposal had divided the community.
Another opponent, Trevor Newton, said he was “naturally disappointed, but not surprised” by the decision.
The Resource Management Act process was about who had the most money, he said.
Mr Newton said he, too, would also be able to see all 83 turbines from his house.
At a glance
• Location: 15km southeast of Gore, 10km east of Mataura.
• Spread over 2568ha.
• Maximum of 83 turbines, with a maximum turbine height of 145m.
• Maximum installed capacity of 240MW.
• Cost about $400 million.
• Hearing attracted 65 submissions – 27 against, 25 in support and 13 neutral.
• A development contribution of $800,000 should be paid by TrustPower to the Gore District Council.
• Will be built in two or three stages over 10 year.
• Location of turbines to be finalised nearer construction.
• Meridian Energy’s White Hill wind farm is more than 100km away to the northwest, near Mossburn.
By Steve Hepburn
10 June 2008
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