A wind farm company arguing with Palmerston North City Council about ongoing noise problems is hoping to keep the dispute out of the courts, but the council is sticking to its guns.
After receiving a complaint a day for more than a year from neighbours of Te Rere Hau wind farm, the council has moved to seek a declaration from the Environment Court about noise compliance.
But New Zealand Windfarms chief executive Chris Sadler – who runs Te Rere Hau wind farm – said the company’s 65-turbine farm on the Tararua Range complied with regulations and the business was happy to continue working with the council to resolve any problems.
“I’m still hopeful we can avoid the whole court process, but we can only play the ball we’re bowled,” he said.
Documents obtained by the Manawatu Standard reveal that NZ Windfarms argued that the council should negotiate with the company directly or the parties should go through a mediation process.
In July, then chief executive Steve Cross wrote that the company “considers that it is premature to involve the court at this stage and that with further time we will be able to resolve the issues between us”.
“Such a process could involve the appointment of an independent noise expert to facilitate or mediate on the issues without taking up the court’s time and without both parties incurring the costs, delay and uncertainty that such litigation involves.”
City council head of planning services Russell O’Leary replied that while negotiation and mediation were considered, the court action was sparked by the “scope” of noise concerns associated with the wind farm.
There have been more than 500 noise complaints.
Neighbours of the farm have consistently complained about “whining” and “droning” from the turbines.
Yesterday, the council remained in no mood to back down.
Mr O’Leary said earlier discussions “resulted in no satisfaction” and the saga had been protracted.
He said there was a meeting with residents and they supported the council’s court action.
Mediation could potentially drag things out, he said.
“Residents supported moving things forward.”
The council wants the Environment Court to determine whether the farm is complying with its consent.
“It’s time to get a clear direction for residents,” Mr O’Leary said.
He also pointed out that the court could instruct the parties to go through a mediation process.
Mr Sadler said he didn’t have a view on whether the council was being heavy-handed.
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