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Appeal likely as wind farm gets green light  

Credit:  ALEX FENSOME, The Southland Times, www.stuff.co.nz 27 March 2012 ~~

Plans for an eight-turbine wind farm on Flat Hill outside Bluff have been given the go-ahead – but a group of Bluff residents is planning to appeal the decision.

Christchurch-based company Energy3 announced its plan to build the wind farm, which would produce up to 6.8 megawatts of electricity and cost around $15 million, in August.

The Invercargill City Council released its decision to give consent to the project yesterday.

Wind farm opponent Kylie Fowler said a group of 15 people was meeting on Wednesday night to discuss an appeal.

She said she was concerned the wind farm could lead to a proliferation of turbines and other structures along Flat Hill.

There were several other grounds for appeal, she said, which would be discussed at the meeting.

The site was first investigated for a wind farm in the 1990s, with a test mast measuring an annual average wind speed of 34kmh.

A commission of chairman Michael Garland and councillors Jackie Kruger and Caroline Dean heard from 15 submitters during the hearing, held last month.

Concerns were raised about noise from the turbines, the visual disturbance and the impact of building on a site with historical significance to Maori.

The council’s final decision says the turbines would not drastically alter the coastal environment and could be seen through, while noise would not be a problem.

“The issue of noise is perhaps the easiest one to resolve because all the expert evidence we heard indicated that it should not be a problem,” it says.

The cultural significance of the site, called Turakanui a Rua by Maori, was not entirely clear, it says, but “it seems universally accepted that signal fires were lit on the higher points of Flat Hill and that the area was traversed in order to gather kaimoana but there is little further detail.”

However, the commission said there was no firm evidence of Maori occupation beyond oral tradition and this was not sufficient proof to be grounds to refuse consent.

The commissioners asked Energy3 to change the name of the wind farm and to set up a community liaison group.

“Tangata whenua have a strong attachment to the land and we believe it would be appropriate [in consultation with Te Runanga o Awarua] to name the wind farm Te Turakanui a Rua.”

The commissioners also asked for the position of turbine seven, closest to houses in Greenhills, to be considered.

“If it can be moved further away and/or reduced in height, we think that would be respectful and neighbourly.”

They also asked whether the company could make the turbines shorter (reduced to 71m from 81m). Energy3 director Warren McNabb said it was open to changing the name and was running the numbers on using shorter turbines.

“We don’t have a final answer, but we indicated we would do it if we could and there is nothing to suggest it’s not very realistic. We are working on the assumption we would use smaller towers.”

It would also move turbine seven if possible, he said.

News of an appeal was disappointing but was a democratic right, he said.

– © Fairfax NZ News

Source:  ALEX FENSOME, The Southland Times, www.stuff.co.nz 27 March 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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