Contact Energy has won its appeal to build a $400 million wind farm near Dannevirke, leaving local opponents “deeply disappointed” after a $150,000 legal battle.
After being denied consent by planning commissioners last year, the company significantly modified its proposal and took its fight to the Environment Court in October. The court has ruled in favour of the company building a wind farm on the Puketoi Range, southeast of Dannevirke, but has granted a lapse time of just five years – half that applied for.
Contact has been granted consent to build 58 turbines up to 125 metres high, or 52 turbines 150m high. The turbines would be the largest in New Zealand and the project would be capable of powering 70,000 homes.
Contact is uncertain when work will start on the project.
The appeal was opposed by the Waitahora-Puketoi Guardians incorporated society and the owners of 10 properties close to the site.
Opponents were concerned about adverse effects on the landscape, potential contamination of underground waterways and the effect of traffic on farming operations during construction.
Group spokesman Stuart Brown said they had spent about $130,000 fighting the proposal, and had received a further $20,000 in government legal assistance.
“We’re deeply disappointed by the decision and we don’t feel due weight was paid to our expert witnesses. However we are unlikely to appeal it,” he said.
He was particularly saddened by the likely impact on tomos (limestone caves) on the site and the visual impacts.
Judge Craig Thompson and commissioners Russell Howie and Helen Beaumont granted a lapse period of five years with the ability to apply for longer if it could not give effect to the consents within five years.
They found the proposed wind farm was to be built on a “highly modified” site almost devoid of indigenous vegetation and that construction of the wind farm would have no adverse impact on the quality of water supply.
While there would inevitably be some adverse landscape and visual amenity effects, they would be acceptable.
“This is after all a relatively remote rural landscape with relatively sparse population density and a relatively high degree of screening by the topography,” their decision said.
They also noted the energy resource at the site was “finite in the sense that wind of such quality is scarce”, and that the Government’s goal was to have 90 per cent of electricity generation coming from renewable sources by 2025. At present 70 per cent is renewable, with 4 per cent coming from wind sources.
Conditions on the consent need to finalised. This is intended to be done this month.
There are 15 wind farms around the country, operating or under construction. There are a further 10 consented developments on which construction is yet to start.
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