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Lack of turbine info criticised

Contact Energy has provided the Environment Court with a woeful amount of information on its proposed Waitahora Wind Farm near Dannevirke, an opponent of the development says.

The Environment Court in Hastings is considering an appeal by Contact against a decision by three commissioners to decline permission for the 65-turbine wind farm on the Puketoi range, about 10 kilometres northwest of Dannevirke.

Contact scaled the proposal back, proposing instead to install 58 turbines up to 125 metres high, or 52 turbines 150m high, capable of powering 70,000 homes. It is seeking a 10-year timeframe for the $400 million project.

A lawyer for the Waitahora-Puketoi Guardian Society, Matthew McClelland, told the court the wind farm would have major effects, including potential contamination of water to neighbouring properties, inappropriate effects on an outstanding natural landscape and irreparable effects on sites of ecologic and scientific importance.

Mr McClelland said Contact’s “skeletal” environmental assessment still lacked sufficient information, despite this being a major reason for the commissioners declining the application last year.

Among the society’s concerns were that:

Only seven of the 52 turbine sites had been investigated.

Only 20 bores had been dug to provide an indication of a site of 419ha.

The siting of the turbines was still speculative.

No geotechnical investigations had been done on the effect of turbines on this type of limestone.

Contact’s claim that detailed design work would start once consents were obtained was contrary to the requirement of the Resource Management Act and required the court to “take a leap of faith and trust that the applicant would do things properly once the consent is granted”, Mr McClelland said.

Opponents “had no faith this will occur”, he said.

They were also concerned at Contact’s “deliberate and intentional failure” to apply for transmission consents at the same time they applied for the wind farm.

The effects of transmission lines and supports were likely to be significant as they covered 50km and crossed many properties, he said.