The proposed Castle Hill Wind Farm project on the Puketoi range in north Wairarapa has been slammed by opposition groups who maintain it would have massive adverse environmental and social impact on the rural north Wairarapa community.
The Castle Hill Wind Farm Action Group took up most of Monday’s session presenting their submission at the resource consent hearing for Genesis Energy’s proposed $1.6 billion 30,000-hectare wind farm project.
The opposition lobby group represents landowners in affected areas surrounding the seven proposed turbine clusters in Pongaroa, Tiraumea, Alfredton, Bideford, Makuri, Tinui and the Rongomai Valley.
Legal counsel for the group Phernne Tancock says the project, if built, is likely to be the largest land-based wind farm in the world.
Construction of the wind farm, which could include up to 286 turbines some standing as high as 155 metres is forecast to take seven years to build.
A resource consent application for the project was lodged in August, attracting 101 submissions, of which 66 were opposed.
The hearing started on Monday last week.
For the project to get the go-ahead it has to be approved by Greater Wellington Regional Council, Horizons Regional Council, Tararua District Council and Masterton District Council.
The hearing is being held in Masterton.
Ms Tancock told the hearing that the application should 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.”
She says the group believes the application lacks sufficient details to adequately assess the potential effects of the proposal, let alone to determine whether these can be avoided, remedied or mitigated.
The group said Genesis relied on the fact that detailed design work on the project would only start once there was certainty that the consents had been secured.
“Essentially, Genesis is requesting that the panel grant consent to its design guidelines, with no real knowledge of the adverse effects.
“Many of the assessments that have been carried out are representative only,” Ms Tancock says.
“All of its expert witnesses are heavily reliant on what they say will occur “at the detailed design stage”, and Genesis’ future ability to implement best practice.
“Therefore, it is difficult to understand how they can recommend that the adverse effects will be minor on a site that has not yet been investigated.”
Monday’s hearing heard submissions from six different parties within The Castle Hill Wind Farm Action Group detailing concerns over: landscape, amenity and property values; social and cultural; business disruption; environment; and traffic safety.
Chairman David Nelson, says the Wind Farm Action Group currently has 139 members representing a total of 195 people in the region.
The Alfredton Educational Trust (School Buses) submission, also presented on Monday, says the huge increase in the volume and nature of road traffic during the construction of the wind farm presents significant safety concerns and also disruptions to the school bus service.
On some routes heavy traffic could increase by nearly 4000 per cent.
“In our drivers’ words it would be, ‘like playing Russian Roulette’ on every corner of the unsealed roads and some other roads even after the road upgrades”.
Meanwhile, evidence given last week by public health doctor Stephen Palmer said that people who benefit financially from wind farms on their properties sleep better than those who get no monetary compensation.
“It doesn’t matter how noisy a turbine is inside a dwelling, if people are getting financial rewards, they don’t suffer health affects or annoyance,” he said.
Dr Palmer warned that a growing rift could pit “neighbour against neighbour” after 29 landowners entered into a confidential land-use agreement to have turbines on their land in exchange for payment.
The hearing is scheduled to continue through until the middle of next week.