Mighty River Power has reignited the battle over the Turitea Wind Farm with a push to add 12 extra turbines to make the project viable – despite a draft decision already being issued capping the number at 60.
The power company has asked the board of inquiry that heard its application for resource consent last year to reconvene to hear its revised plans.
Opponents who have made what they thought were final submissions on the board’s draft decision are aghast at the prospect.
Submitter Detlef Klein said Mighty River Power’s last-minute plea was “unbelievable”. Another, Helen Harker, called it a travesty.
The board heard 10 weeks of evidence over nine months on the original proposal, ending in March last year.
It released a draft decision almost a year later, in February, that cut the number of turbines it would allow from 104 to 60.
Concerns about the wind farm’s impact on the view of the skyline from Palmerston North led to the board’s imposition of a clear path through the middle of it, with turbines allowed to the north and south.
Mighty River Power said the board had effectively cut its wind farm in two, and had made “unsupported and uninformed assumptions” that the changes it had imposed would allow an economically sustainable development.
It is asking the board to rectify that “serious deficiency”.
It said the board gave no warning about the scale of changes the draft decision would demand, and said it was only fair that Mighty River Power and the other parties to the process should have a chance to meet again.
None of the 36 other submitters have had a chance to comment on Mighty River Power’s counter-proposal.
The board never formally closed its hearing in March last year, but only adjourned, which left the option open to reconvene, the energy company said.
But some of the other submitters are dazed at the prospect of the process dragging on for longer.
Mighty River Power has already significantly revised its proposal once, in 2009.
Mr Klein said the expense and the energy required to participate in the drawn-out process made it difficult, if not impossible, for “Joe Bloggs” to keep up.
“This is clearly designed to see if they can wear us down.
“Everybody is tired, and I understand some people don’t want to hear about it any more. But in the end this will affect everyone in New Zealand. It’s about how the Resource Management Act is being used, and how taxpayers are able to take part in the process.”
Palmerston North City Council chief executive Paddy Clifford said he was not surprised that Mighty River Power wanted to include extra turbines and had asked for another hearing.
The process had already been a lengthy one, despite the “call-in” process in which the Government deemed a board of inquiry should hear the application, rather than the council. Part of the rationale was to speed up the process.
Mr Clifford had no indication how much extra time the request for another hearing extension would take to consider. An Environment Ministry spokesperson would not say when the board would release a final decision or resume the hearing.
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