Opponents of MainPower’s planned wind farm on Mt Cass are disappointed the Environment Court has given the go-ahead by approving a resource consent for the project.
Members of the Mt Cass Ridge Protection Society environmental group fought against the wind farm, arguing that the ridge line east of Waipara was an outstanding natural feature of national importance with limestone outcrops and regenerating native bush harbouring many rare and endangered species.
Commissioners appointed by the Hurunui District Council rejected MainPower’s original proposal in 2009, but the Rangiora-based electricity distribution company lodged an appeal with the Environment Court and modified its plans during extensive mediation.
Granting the resource consent subject to a wide range of conditions last month, the court weighed the adverse effects on the landscape against the positive outcome of renewable energy generation.
Protection society president Alec Ford said members were “obviously disappointed” and would examine the decision and resource consent conditions closely.
However, an appeal was unlikely.
“It’s a big ask for a small group like us to find the money and the time to appeal,” he said.
“It’s a sad day for landscape and ecological values. The destruction of limestone features and native bush will mean a loss of habitat for native species.”
Mr Ford said the decision “doesn’t bode well” for Greta Valley residents opposing Meridian Energy’s plans for “the next hill north”.
He said a worrying aspect of the decision was that the Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson, must now remove or relax a conservation covenant over the land east of Mt Cass to allow the project to proceed.
“We wonder what consultation process the minister will go through, but it is of concern for conservation throughout New Zealand that if covenants registered with DOC can be easily lifted then they are not worth the paper that they are written on.”
MainPower managing director Allan Berge welcomed the decision as an “opportunity for a substantial addition to the generation of renewable energy for North Canterbury and Kaikoura”.
The wind farm could produce up to 40 per cent of the region’s electricity needs.
“Mt Cass gives us the opportunity to improve the security of supply for our region as well as contributing to national goals for renewable energy,” Mr Berge said.
As part of the project, MainPower will protect 127ha of native shrubland and forest.
The resource consent has a time limit of eight years during which construction must be started.
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