Christchurch businessman Mark Stewart is calling on the Government to curb the “extraordinary” power granted to electricity firm Contact Energy to mandatorily acquire land for a $2 billion wind farm in Waikato.
Mr Stewart, son of the late Sir Robertson Stewart, founder of electricity products firm PDL, is going into bat for relatives, the Walters, a farming couple in their 60s, who own a farm near the planned Port Waikato wind farm and who have been told nine pylons will grace their land for the transmission line connecting the wind farm and the grid.
Mr Stewart said Contact had no requiring authority over the land for the turbines, but it did over land for the 23 kilometres of transmission line.
Contact had “picked off” the Queen street farmers and lawyers and paid them “substantial amounts” for land on which to place the turbines. But other landowners had received a notice of requirement over land wanted for pylons. The notice was “a blight” on the land, could last up to 10 years and made the land unsaleable for the owners.
Contact had said it did not want to build the wind farm for 10 years but wanted to “bank” the consent.
The previous government had granted Contact, a foreign-controlled power company, extraordinary powers to designate private land in New Zealand for its own use, Mr Stewart said. “Only the government and its agencies normally have the power to designate land and they are fully accountable to the public through all the usual mechanisms plus the overriding requirements of the Official Information Act and the Ombudsman.”
“None of these controls apply to Contact. It can take decisions, act in a prejudicial manner and is not accountable, other than to its shareholders, for its actions. There is no corresponding public responsibility for the extraordinary powers it has been granted.
Contact will hold its annual meeting in Christchurch today. Mr Stewart said he was not attending.
The cost to the farmers of challenging Contact was huge, he said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding