Contact Energy’s appeal against the Mahinerangi wind farm has been dismissed but the company is still intending to pursue its appeal against Otago’s other big wind farm, Project Hayes.
In an Environment Court decision released yesterday, Judge Jeff Smith said the conditions sought by Contact Energy were inappropriate and unreasonable in that they did not relate to any environmental effect as a result of the granting of consent.
Contact Energy did not oppose TrustPower building the $400 million, 200MW Mahinerangi wind farm but wanted a condition imposed to upgrade transmission lines at the Roxburgh substation and lines through to the Waitaki Valley.
A similar appeal was made by Contact Energy against Meridian Energy’s Project Hayes wind farm.
Judge Smith said when Mahinerangi wind power was sent to the national grid before power generated at the Roxburgh dam, spillage of water would occur.
Contact Energy argued this was an adverse effect on the environment but Judge Smith said it was about trade competition.
Judge Smith said the spillage was simply a result of the market for electricity and the competitive bidding and dispatch process of electricity.
To impose a condition was both unreasonable and sought to protect Contact Energy’s position in the market, he said. Costs were reserved.
Judge Smith had indicated he would release his decision on the appeal by the Upland Landscape Protection Society in August.
Contact Energy spokesman Jonathan Hill said the company was naturally disappointed with the decision, but would continue with its appeal involving Project Hayes.
The company was pleased the appeal had raised an issue of national importance and had led to some quite strong undertakings from Transpower, the national grid operator, to look at investments in the grid.
He said the company was unlikely to go to the High Court.
The Project Hayes appeal is set to resume next month, and he confirmed Contact Energy would continue with its appeal.
TrustPower community relations manager Graeme Purches said Contact Energy had wanted to maintain significant control over the wholesale power price in Otago and had been slow to look at alternative forms of power in Otago.
The Contact Energy appeal was a cynical attempt to use the Resource Management Act for commercial purposes, he said.
That was rejected by Mr Hill, who said it was an appeal about lines capacity, and spilling water was a serious environmental effect.
TrustPower would be seeking costs from Contact Energy, Mr Purches said.
Clutha District Council planning and environment manager Murray Brass said the council was happy with the result, backing up the hearing panel’s decision.
He said the council would be seeking costs.
By Steve Hepburn
20 June 2008
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