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Locals urge rethink on $1.6b wind farm plan

A tiny Wairarapa community has come together to voice its concerns about what could be the world’s largest wind farm project.

Members of the Castle Hill Wind Farm Community Action Group presented arguments to a hearing in Masterton yesterday, where resource consent was being sought by Genesis for a massive wind farm in north Wairarapa.

At the heart of the group’s concerns is increased traffic, visual and noise pollution, and the social and financial disruptions to the farming community caused by construction, which could take up to seven years.

The group’s lawyer, Phernne Tancock, said the scale of the proposal was unprecedented.

“The Castle Hill project is the largest proposed wind farm in New Zealand to date …

“If built, Castle Hill is likely to be the largest land-based wind farm in the world.”

She asked that the application be declined in its entirety.

“This is the only action that can sufficiently protect the environment in its current, natural, state for future generations and provide for the health and safety, social, economic, cultural wellbeing of the community.”

At a cost of $1.6 billion, the project would involve the construction of up to 286 wind turbines, each up to 155m tall, and generating enough electricity to service 370,000 households.

A consent application for the project was lodged by Genesis in August, attracting 101 submissions, of which 66 were opposed.

Action group chairman David Nelson said much of the visual assessment had been carried out on the basis of computer-generated images and Google Earth maps rather than by visiting the homes concerned.

“To assess the visual effect when you don’t actually know where abouts these will actually be sited and conclude that it will be okay just seems unrealistic,” he said.

He said the group currently had 139 members, representing a total of 195 people in Pongaroa, Tiraumea, Alfredton, Rongomai, Whangaehu, Bideford and Tinui.

The hearing, which began last week with submissions from Genesis, includes representatives from the four councils involved – Masterton District Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Tararua District Council and Horizons Regional Council.

Last week Genesis chief executive Albert Brantley told the hearing that Castle Hill had shown huge energy potential and was needed to meet increasing national demand.

He said a construction workforce of up to 185 personnel would be required, while the operation of the wind farm would need a workforce of up to 40 personnel. The project would bring $247 million into the Masterton and Tararua districts during construction, with a further $9.4 million spent annually thereafter in operations and maintenance.

The hearing continues today.

Wind farm facts

Construction cost $1.68 billion

Up to 286 wind turbines

Turbine height up to 155 metres tall

Total potential capacity 860 megawatts

Able to service 370,000 households