Approval has been signalled for building New Zealand’s largest windfarm on Wairarapa’s eastern hills, but a coalition of opponents has not given up the fight.
The Castle Hill windfarm would contain up to 286 turbines, cover more than 30,000ha, and cost $1.68 billion.
A commission heard submissions on the Genesis Energy application from January 20 to January 25, and now says consent will be granted.
In a statement headed Minute 7, it says the commissioners “have concluded that consent can be granted for most and probably all turbine groups”. Reasons will be given “in due course”, and it will release its written preliminary judgment on March 30.
Details of effects on properties near the proposed windfarm, and what Genesis needs to do about them, will be part of the commission’s preliminary and final judgments.
The Castle Hill Wind Farm Action Group, which objects to the project, was due to meet last night, and chairman David Nelson has made it clear the group considers the matter ongoing.
“As the hearing has not yet been closed, and the commissioners are still seeking further information from Genesis, the [action group] will wait until the preliminary decision has been issued on March 30 before making any comment,” Mr Nelson said. In Minute 7, commissioners Roger Lane, Philip Milne and David McMahon were critical of a lack of information provided by Genesis on the effects of the windfarm on amenity values of nearby properties and places.
“The applicant did not adequately assess impacts on the amenity values of nearby properties prior to lodging the applications,” they wrote.
In particular the proposal did not distinguish between “visual impacts” and visibility.
Settlements nearest the windfarm would be Tiraumea, Alfredton, Bideford, Tinui, Pongaroa and Mauriceville.
The commission noted some places and farms would “suffer significant detraction” if the proposal proceeded in its present form and indicated it would propose remedies.
It would be up to Genesis to change the proposal, or have it changed for them.
“We would prefer to have a considered mitigation proposal from the Applicant guided by our preliminary decision, but will, if needs be, impose the restrictions which we consider necessary,” the commissioners wrote.
The consent Genesis has been seeking is to have a 10-year period before it lapses, followed by a 10-year building period and 35 years of windfarm operation.
The commissioners note that, in practice, the windfarm is “a proposal for seven linked windfarms involving many different activities” and that, other than farming, it is “the largest proposed development of any kind in Wairarapa”.