North Wairarapa residents say they are insulted by Meridian Energy’s suggestion that the land on which it proposes to build a 20-turbine wind farm is “unremarkable” and will not be affected.
The newly formed Hastwell Waiwaka Landscape Protection Group, made up of about 26 residents living within 3km of the planned Mt Munro wind farm, is challenging the power company’s resource consent application.
The group’s key objections are the visual impact on the landscape and the potential effect on the saleability of their properties, but they also say Meridian has treated them with a lack of respect.
Kath Miller, who will see 19 of the 20 wind turbines from her Hastwell property, said she felt they had been treated like small-town “yobs” during the consultation process.
Meridian announced its plans in July last year and lodged a resource consent application to councils covering the area – Tararua and Masterton district council, and Greater Wellington and Horizons regional council – in late January.
The wind farm would be scattered along the ridgeline close to Pukaha Mt Bruce, about 5km south of Eketahuna, and would have 20 wind turbines up to 130m high over a 720ha area.
The wind farm could generate up to 240 GWh of power annually, enough to power 31,000 homes, said Meridian Energy in January.
Gavin and Merryn Osborne, who have lived on their Hastwell property for 26 years, said they had received two visits from Meridian representatives but say they were more of a notification than a consultation.
“All they did was show us a map of what they’re going to do,” said Mrs Osborne. “They didn’t ask for feedback or ask how we value the landscape. They didn’t seem to think that having a dozen windmills there would have any impact on the landscape.”
The couple say that Meridian, despite holding open days, had not gauged the community’s feeling about the wind farm.
Mr and Mrs Osborne said they are not opposed to wind energy, but think there are better places to put the farm, which would have less impact on people.
“Why spoil this landscape for the sake of 20 turbines?” said Mr Osborne. “Why not add 20 to existing wind farms?”
The group are also concerned about noise levels, estimated to be about 35 decibels for those in the 2km zone, and the impact on the growing native bird population in the area.
Neighbour Andrew James, who has lived in Hastwell since 2007, is also opposed.
“It’s going to be a real eyesore on the area, and personally I don’t think it should be right next to Pukaha, it shouldn’t be seen.”
Meridian Energy project manager Carolyn Wylie said almost 100 people had attended open days.
Feedback about the economic benefits the project could bring to the community was very positive.
She said concerns had been expressed about the visual impact of the farm and the noise from the turbines but the company had a good level of contact with homeowners close to the site.
“The first people in the community we went to visit last July were the people living within about 2km.
“Many of these people have been visited again, some with the landscape expert. Several people have asked for additional information that we have supplied on a host of topics [noise, landscape, property values etc].”
There are three open days before submissions on the application close on March 6 – at the Mt Munro Information Centre in the Herbert Building, 32 Main St, Eketahuna, from Thursday to Saturday.