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Opinions aplenty on proposal

The jury is still out on whether windfarms will be able to be built on the Tararua Ranges, with a hearing on the matter delayed until at least March next year.

Horowhenua District Council’s proposed District Plan change 22 garnered more than 150 submissions over two submission periods.

More than half oppose either the entire plan or part of it, but review project manager David McCorkindale said the submissions “cover all ends of the spectrum”.

He said the council commissioned a peer review of specific parts of the landscape assessment, “to address specific matters raised by submitters”. That information was still being worked on and the council is also waiting for both Horizons Regional Council’s One Plan, and the Government’s New Zealand Coastal Policy statement to be finalised.

“We need to … make sure our changes are aligned correctly with them, and we need to consider what measures we need to take to protect our natural features.”

Under the proposed plan change the ranges, Foxton Dunefields and the Manawatu Estuary would all be classified as an outstanding natural landscape.

This would mean buildings and network utilities taller than three metres would be classed as non-complying activities in the three areas.

It would also mean farmers wanting to carry out earthworks on their farms would have to apply for resource consent for any works higher or deeper than one metre.

A number of farmers in the region have made submissions against this earthworks provision.

Farmers Malcolm and Wendy Squire said in their submission “resource consent should not be required for repairs and maintenance to existing tracks, boundary fences and newly developed fence lines, as the Tararuas are prone to slips during heavy rains which require urgent maintenance”.

Farmers Donald and Fleur Hayes said the plan “in its entirety is almost laughable”.

“This plan will make the day-to-day running of our farming enterprise almost impossible.”

District plan review project manager David McCorkindale said several landowners in the ranges said they had already been approached by windfarm firms about using their land.

Energy company Mighty River Power was one of many submitters in the wind-energy sector.

“The provisions assume that all windfarm turbine development scenarios constitute inappropriate development. This is not consistent with the RMA or the Environment Court decisions,” they said in their submission.

The Department of Conservation however, is mostly supportive of the plan change, saying it “provides for the protection of high amenity landscapes”.

Mr McCorkindale said a date for the hearing would not be set until after the peer review had made its findings.