A wind farm project that could power more than 35,000 Wellington homes has been given the green light – but it will have five fewer turbines than proposed.
However, project opponents are not ruling out further legal action.
The Environment Court decision allows 26 turbines to go ahead for the Project Mill Creek wind farm in Ohariu Valley, north of Makara. The original proposal, lodged for consent in 2008, was for 31 turbines, each standing up to 111.2-metres tall (to blade tip).
A Wellington City Council consent in 2009 reduced the original proposal to 29 turbines, but Meridian appealed to the Environment Court to have the two turbines restored. Opponents, including the 126-member Ohariu Valley Preservation Society, had appealed to have all the turbines turned down because of the noise, health and visual impacts.
In its decision, the Environment Court agreed with the removal of the two turbines and removed a further three.
The court said the “concerns of the local community are well-founded in a number of respects but not all”, but “the benefits of the proposal outweigh its adverse effects”.
The five turbines posed “unacceptable” adverse effects on neighbours, the decision said.
Meridian general manager of renewable development Ken Smales said the company was happy with the decision.
No decisions had been made about when construction would start, he said.
However, Ohariu Valley Preservation Society president Siobhan Lilley described the decision as disappointing.
While the removal of five turbines was a “limited acknowledgement”, the West Wind project at Makara had proved the adverse impact turbines could have on people who lived nearby, she said.
The court should have gone further and removed all the turbines, she said.
The group would be seeking legal advice on where to go from here, and further legal action was possible, Mrs Lilley said.
Environment Court decisions can only be appealed to the High Court on a point of law.
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