The cumulative effects of the Mahinerangi wind farm and others around New Zealand needed to be considered before a decision could be made about Project Hayes, Environment Court judge Jon Jackson said in Cromwell yesterday.
Judge Jackson was responding to a question from Maniototo Environmental Society counsel Mike Holm about the appropriateness of making an application for new evidence – including the Mahinerangi wind farm decision released by the Environment Court this week – to be heard.
The judge agreed it was appropriate.
“The cumulative effects issue goes wider than just landscape and could include infrastructure, economy and the total distribution of wind farms around New Zealand,” he said.
“I feel sympathetic for Meridian [the power company behind Project Hayes] but the fact is Mahinerangi has been consented and it raises issues of cumulative effects in terms of Project Hayes.”
Mr Holm’s application will be considered by Judge Jackson on Monday.
If granted, the application could delay the Project Hayes appeal hearing, although it is not known at this stage by how long.
Appellants of the $1.5 billion, 176-turbine Project Hayes development yesterday welcomed the society’s application for new evidence to be heard.
Speaking outside of the court, society spokesman Grahame Sydney, of St Bathans, said the combination of Project Hayes and Mahinerangi would be a blight on the landscape and it was important for the court to recognise Mahinerangi was no longer a proposal.
“Although Mahinerangi was granted on conditions, it is something that has been granted and therefore there is something for the court to consider.”
The cumulative effects of both wind farms within Central Otago and Clutha was a significant part of arguments against the developments, he said.
“The stain on provincial Otago from both wind farms will be a disgraceful and sad one. A good thing to come out of this application is the court has the chance to view significant information,” he said.
Meridian counsel Andrew Beatson, of Wellington, declined to comment on the application yesterday.
The Environment Court released an interim decision this week on TrustPower’s $400-million, 100-turbine wind farm at Mahinerangi, saying the company must first prepare a site plan which would then be circulated within 40 working days.
Talks with other parties were to be held within 30 working days and, if parties could not agree, a pre-hearing conference and hearing may be needed.
The court said in its decision it was confident the site could accommodate more than 66 turbines but was not so confident about 100 turbines.
“However, we consider that if significant cuts, fills and batters can be avoided, the site may be able to accommodate up to 100 turbines if placed and sited appropriately.”
The court said it was giving TrustPower the opportunity to reconsider both the number and location of turbines “and to provide modified conditions to meet the concerns of the court”.
The fourth week of the six-week Project Hayes appeal is scheduled to resume at Cromwell on Monday, after which it will be adjourned until August 18 in Dunedin.
The hearing is expected to finish at Dunedin on August 29.
By Rosie Manins
1 August 2008
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