Contact Energy is appealing against the Environment Court’s decision last year to decline consent for its 156-megawatt Waitahora windfarm on the Puketoi range near Dannevirke.
The appeal hearing, expected to run for about two weeks, began today in the Environment Court in Hastings.
Contact has refined the project over the last 18 months in a bid to reduce environmental effects and address local residents’ concerns.
The project, as originally proposed, would have featured up to 65 150m-high turbines and produced enough electricity to power up to 86,000 homes.
Radio NZ reported today that as the result of changes to the project’s design, including the removal of seven turbines, both the Tararua and Manawatu-Whanganui councils now support the project, subject to a number of conditions.
The Waitahora-Puketoi Guardian Society continues to oppose the project.
“We feel there needs to be a balance of renewable energy especially in the Tararua region,” the group’s website states.
“With the three biggest wind power sites, Tararua, Te Rere Hau and Te Apiti operational in NZ only 30 kilometres away, the region contributes renewable energy already to the national grid.”
Contact Energy’s lawyer Matt Casey QC argued today that the adverse effects of the windfarm will be outweighed by significant positive benefits at both regional and national level.
The modified project has an expected cost of $400m and will produce enough electricity to power up to 70,000 homes.