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Wind farm mystery in wine town

As many as 50 turbines may be added to the rugged landscape east of Martinborough.

It is understood Meridian Energy is looking at building a large wind farm along a ridge north of Nga Waka Vineyard.

The news comes after confirmation that state-owned Mighty River Power could place between 20 and 50 turbines in Long Gully, the third big farm planned for Wellington’s south coast.

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples said Meridian Energy first approached the council about 18 months ago.

The company spoke to the Maori standing committee to gauge views on a wind farm.

“They wanted to feel out how iwi would react to the concept and were told it would depend on location and size. Since then we had not heard anything back or received any application for resource consent.”

In the past two weeks, southern Wairarapa residents had been visited by Powerco Transmission Services regarding plans to run electricity lines from a new wind farm back into Martinborough, hooking up to the national grid.

Five routes were being considered, involving 18-metre poles carrying 110,000-volt lines.

PTS would not tell residents where the wind farm would be or who would own it.

Meridian Energy spokesman Alan Seay said the company was monitoring potential sites up and down New Zealand.

“Just because we are monitoring does not mean we will build wind farms. Exactly where we are looking and what stage we are at in the process is highly commercially sensitive so we don’t divulge that information.”

Mr Seay said if Meridian was advancing plans for one particular site, affected residents would be told first.

The company did not buy land but tapped into potential wind farm sites through lease agreements.

Ms Staples said wind farm expansion would be a difficult issue for the community. “I know Martinborough is clearly divided on the issue. When Meridian Energy first mooted its idea, people said they did not want wind farms where they would upset the character of the land.

“We obviously need renewable energy, but at what cost?”

Whether or not the plan is a concrete proposal will not be known till resource consent is lodged.

TANYA KATTERNS – The Dominion Post | Wednesday, 02 July 2008