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Turitea wind farm inquiry ‘a farce’

Mighty River Power’s eleventh-hour request to squeeze 12 more turbines into its proposed Turitea Wind Farm has turned the consent process into a farce, say weary opponents.

“I beg the board to put an end to this process,” said Turitea resident Alison Mildon.

After 10 weeks of hearings over nine months ending in March last year, a board of inquiry released a draft decision in February slashing the size of the wind farm from 104 turbines to 60.

It invited comments in a process submitters thought would be about refining the detail of the final decision.

But the power company asked the board to reconvene the hearing so it could put its case for a further 12 turbines to make the project viable.

The board decided it did not need further evidence, but that submitters should have another chance to comment on Mighty River Power’s revised layout.

More than 20 parties took up that option, almost entirely opposed to the extra turbines and to having to go another round.

Palmerston North City Council, which would lease land for the wind farm, said Mighty River Power (MRP) had overstepped the line in asking for a substantial revision of the board’s draft decision.

Its submission said this was “the pointy end” of the process, and the submitters should only have provided feedback to tidy up any “rough edges” before the decision became final.

It discouraged the board from putting any weight on MRP’s “moveable feast” argument that it should be granted consent for a more intense wind farm that would be economically viable.

“Everyone has had a fair crack of the whip,” it said.

MRP said it was “surprised” by the council’s response, and repeated its desire for the hearing to be reconvened so it could record its disagreement with most of the issues the council raised.

As a project partner, the council officially has a neutral stance.

The Friends of Turitea Reserve Society said the prospect of more hearings left community groups “hamstrung and disadvantaged”.

“Our limited resources would be stretched beyond capacity and we would be unfairly disadvantaged if the hearing were to be reopened to accept evidence.”

Ms Mildon said the process had become a farce, and she begged the board to put an end to it.

“If the process is to salvage any credibility at all the board will put an end to this game playing, and neither the requested process nor the 12 additional turbines will be granted consent,” she said. “There are people at the end of their tether, family relationships at risk, a once-happy community already fractured, probably irrevocably.”

Councillor Bruce Wilson, speaking as an individual submitter, urged the board to decide urgently whether the inquiry had finished.

“I am extremely disappointed to find that MRP has used the request for comments … to effectively lodge a new application or a quasi-appeal, by requesting that another 12 turbines be approved.”