September 27, 2010
New Zealand

Project Hayes’ future gets hazier by the day

By JOHN EDENS - The Southland Times, 27 September 2010

Meridian Energy’s lawyers have asked the High Court to clarify its Project Hayes decision.

Opponents of the $2 billion wind farm bid and Meridian have started fresh legal action, which could put on hold an Environment Court rethink set down for November.

In August, the High Court upheld an appeal by Meridian against the Environment Court’s rejection of its planned 176-turbine wind farm in Central Otago.

The decision by justices Lester Chisholm and John Fogarty called for a nine-step rethink by the Environment Court, which cancelled consents for the proposed farm on the outstanding natural landscape of the Lammermoor Range last year.

Meridian Energy counsel Hugh Rennie, QC, Andrew Beatson and Humphrey Tapper, filed a memo on September 6 seeking clarification.

Court documents asked for changes and additions to clarify directions in the 63-page decision.

Meridian’s High Court appeal objected to the Environment Court’s “new test” that a project such as Hayes should demonstrate how it was economically better than any other potential generation scheme and consider alternative sites.

Justices Chisholm and Fogarty said Meridian was not obliged to go beyond a “reasonably detailed” description of alternative sites to satisfy this.

Meridian’s memo asked for consideration of alternative sites using the Central Otago district plan landscape categories.

Central Otago’s district plan does not recognise the definition of outstanding natural landscapes.

High Court directions should explicitly say alternatives should use the district plan, ruling out independent analyses of other potential wind farm sites, the memo says.

Meridian says all parties can present further submissions.

Umbrella group Save Central – which represents opponents of the wind farm bid – filed notice with the High Court seeking leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Notice was filed by the Maniototo Environmental Society, Upland Landscape Protection Society, John and Sue Douglas, of Alexandra, and Ewan Carr.

If the High Court grants the application, the opponents may take the case to appeal or continue with the Environment Court rehearing.

But the High Court must also arrange a hearing to consider Meridian’s call for clarification, before any decision about whether the matter proceeds to the scheduled Environment Court rethink or another jurisdiction.

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