Meridian Energy will pay up to $179,000 to mitigate effects of its proposed $1.5 billion Project Hayes wind farm on the Lammermoor Range if the development is granted resource consent.
The sum is part of a confidential agreement between Meridian and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, which was negotiated before the trust withdrew its section 247 Environment Court appeal against Project Hayes.
The written agreement, obtained by the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act, includes ways in which Meridian will mitigate the development’s effects on archaeological and historic heritage sites and on features of the proposed 92sq km wind farm site.
Opponents of the 176-turbine wind farm say mitigation from Meridian is not worth the withdrawal of the trust’s appeal.
A former chairman of the trust’s Central Otago branch committee, Graye Shattky, said he was deeply disappointed the trust allowed itself to be “out-manoeuvred” by Meridian in signing an agreement of “little apparent benefit” to the heritage organisation.
“I’m not surprised at the depths Meridian is prepared to go to buy out its opposition.
“Most of the things in the agreement would have been imposed either by conditions of consent by the court or under the Historic Places Act (1993).”
Mr Shattky, who is an individual member of the NZHPT as well as a Save Central co-ordinator, said he could no longer see that the trust supported the principle of preserving Central Otago’s heritage, with specific regard to Old Dunstan Rd.
“I see no point in continuing my membership [with the trust] and I would appeal to other Central Otago members to closely examine whether there are any good reasons now to continue supporting the trust,” he said.
Neither Meridian nor the trust will comment on the agreement or the Project Hayes application.
“This is now with the Environment Court and therefore it is not appropriate for us to make any comment at this time,” Meridian spokeswoman Claire Shaw said.
In its initial appeal against Meridian’s resource consent application for Project Hayes last year, the trust was concerned about the archaeological and historic values of the area, particularly Old Dunstan Rd, which traverses the Lammermoor Range.
After Meridian was granted consent by the Central Otago District Council and the Otago Regional Council, the trust became a section 247 appellant of the wind farm through an Environment Court appeal hearing.
On May 6, two weeks before the hearing started in Cromwell, the trust withdrew its appeal.
Its agreement with Meridian states: “Meridian will mitigate the effects of Project Hayes on any archaeological sites and impacts on the historic values of Old Dunstan Rd, and NZHPT will withdraw from appeals and not further oppose Project Hayes.”
In return for Meridian’s mitigation, the trust cannot object to or oppose the application.
It cannot appeal any part of the decisions made by any court or other authority in relation to development, or complain to any authority about any activity undertaken in accordance with any consents for the application.
The trust is continuing its research of Old Dunstan Rd in order to register the heritage trail.
Otago-Southland area manager Owen Graham said the registration of Old Dunstan Rd was not affected by, or related to, the trust’s agreement with Meridian in regard to Project Hayes.
“It’s not tied to the wind farm.
We would do it anyway,” Mr Graham said.
“We are actively researching and assessing Old Dunstan Rd and will produce a report at the end of our assessments that will ultimately go out for public comment.”
By Rosie Manins
16 June 2008
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