Genesis Energy has failed to sway local communities from opposing a massive wind farm plan despite dangling a financial carrot.
The power giant this week offered a $750,000 deal as a way of compensating the people of townships such as Alfredton, Castle Hill and Tinui for problems associated with construction of the $1.6 billion Castle Hill Wind Farm that could not be otherwise mitigated.
But residents said the sticking point was that a proposed community trust would only be established if resource consent were granted on the terms sought.
Genesis is willing to put up $500,000 at the start of construction, and a further $50,000 each year for five years on the anniversary of work starting.
The resource consent hearing before a panel of commissioners re-convened in Masterton this week, having been stood down late last year when the panel asked Genesis Energy to take time out to re-think its proposal and provide more evidence on the impact of its plan.
Yesterday lawyer Phernne Tancock, representing the Castle Hill Wind Farm Action Group opposing the plan, said that until Tuesday Genesis Energy had refused to discuss the community fund.
She said now it was prepared to do so but only on the proviso that it was set up on the basis outlined in the offer and that consents were granted on the terms Genesis sought.
“This implies Genesis requires the commissioners to consent the whole application on Genesis terms, with Genesis conditions,” Ms Tancock said.
The action group welcomed the fact Genesis was willing to discuss a community trust but it was important this did not detract from “a robust assessment of the application before you”, the lawyer said.
The action group still considered the application for resource consent was deficient in many respects and should be rejected.
It said the panel should not be asked to choose between a community fund for compensation of social effects on one hand and having effective conditions that gave protection from the wind farm’s other adverse effects.
Ms Tancock said the $750,000 being offered was the same amount as Contact Energy offered for a considerably smaller wind farm being built elsewhere.
Genesis issued a one-page addition to its offer yesterday morning that named the organisations it would invite to each appoint a trust representative.
These were Genesis, Tinui Community, Alfredton community, Castle Hill community, Ngati Kahungunu, Rangitane, Tararua District Council and Masterton District Council.
Action group members said the list of organisations showed how little research Genesis had done as the power company had failed to include Pongaroa, Bideford and Tiraumea, all communities which would be affected by wind farm construction.
Earlier in the week Genesis Energy chief executive Albert Brantley told the panel his company made considerable efforts to establish very active dialogue with stakeholders.
He said Genesis had a history of making significant financial contributions to communities.
The hearing was expected to re-convene today and the commissioners will reserve a decision on the application.
Should the project go ahead it is expected to provide 185 jobs during the construction period, 40 ongoing jobs, and would bring millions of dollars to economies of both Masterton and Tararua districts.
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