The proposed northern Rangitikei wind farm will generate enough energy to power 50,000 homes, but sparks are already flying over the plan.
A local lobby group, dubbed the “Rangitikei Guardians”, claims Meridian Energy’s Central Wind project will spoil the district’s natural beauty.
About 25 locals are involved in the group, which came into existence after Meridian announced plans to erect 52 turbines near Moawhango on the border of the Rangitikei and Ruapehu districts.
Rangitikei Guardians spokesperson Gill Duncan said the wind farm is in conflict with the Rangitikei District Council’s “Unspoilt” motto.
“We expect to live in this beautiful country.
“A lot of us have been travelling and have seen benefit in other lifestyles, but we’ve come home because New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world.”
Forty-six turbines will be visible from Mrs Duncan’s house, some of which will appear higher than Mt Ruapehu on the vista.
She was concerned public energy needs had been compromised because wind farm development had become a race between private interests.
“I don’t think anyone in the whole country is anti-wind energy, but there’s a lot of competition between companies, and no national plan or overview,” she said.
“Large wind farms have little to do with clean, green eco-friendly power generation, and everything to do with big enterprise making even bigger money.”
The Government needed to formulate a nationally co-ordinated approach for wind energy, she said.
“If we felt that there was a balanced approach, and this particular wind farm was necessary, then I think most members of the group would swallow it.”
Mrs Duncan said membership of the Rangitikei Guardians was growing as people became aware of Meridian’s proposal.
The Guardians have arranged a meeting with Rangitikei MP Simon Power, and want to attract as many people as possible to Meridian’s information days next week. Meridian spokesperson Claire Shaw said the company was confident any issues raised during the consent process would be addressed.
“We have consulted with the local communities close to the proposed site. The feedback from these initial meetings has been very positive,” she said.
“We look forward to discussing the project further at our information days that take place in the area next week, and we would encourage those who have questions to come along, meet our team and learn more about the project.”
Meridian first contacted private property owners on the Central Wind site two-and-a-half years ago, almost a year before serious site investigation began.
By Simon Wood
4 July 2008
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