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Giving wind farm Maori name ‘a sop’

Opponents of the Flat Hill Wind Farm have branded an offer to rename the project Turakanui a Rua insulting, demeaning and tokenism.

A group of Bluff and Greenpoint residents will appeal the Invercargill City Council’s decision to give the eight-turbine farm, planned by Energy3, consent.

The decision requested Energy3 consider renaming the wind farm in consultation with the Awarua runaka, because of the Maori attachment to the land.

It included comments about the cultural significance of the area but said existing oral traditions were not enough to protect the site from development.

“If provision has to be made for the relationship of local Maori with the land on the basis of waahi tapu or other concepts of tikanga Maori then it is not sufficient for someone simply to assert a belief,” it said.

Greenpoint resident Louise Fowler-Harnett and wind farm opponent Eve Fowler-Stockwell said ignoring the cultural history of the hill and then offering to give the wind farm a Maori name was a sop.

“It’s tokenism,” Mrs Fowler-Harnett said. “They want to buy us off.”

The hill was used as a signal-fire site by Ngai Tahu and other iwi and the ridgeline was used as the main route to access Bluff Hill before the swampland in the area was drained, she said.

It was the middle section of the prow of Maui’s canoe, Taurapa, she said.

The other sections, Bluff Hill and the Three Sisters, are protected, but Flat Hill was not and would be ruined by the wind farm.

“They are all one piece,” Mrs Fowler-harnett said. “Top middle and bottom. You can’t have it without the middle.”

She also had concerns about the distance of the turbines from houses.

Her own house is 1.1 kilometres away.

Evidence given in support of the project by Dr Stephen Chiles, an acoustics expert, said there were more than 10 houses in Greenpoint within 2km of the site.

Mrs Fowler-Harnett showed The Southland Times documents from a board of inquiry into Mighty River Power’s Turitea wind farm project in Manawatu in 2009.

In the report, a memorandum to the board on setback distances, a series of expert reports suggested a safe distance from wind farm turbines varied between 1.5km and 3.5km.

Energy3 director Warren McNabb had contacted Mrs Fowler-Harnett other submitters against the wind farm, telling them he wanted to meet to discuss options before an expensive appeal was launched.

“An Environment Court appeal process will not only be an emotional draining exercise for all parties involved,” he said. “But will in no doubt prove to be a legally complex and costly exercise for all parties. Based on recent examples, each party’s costs in the hearing could be anywhere from $75,000 to over $150,000 especially given the need to involve lawyers and expert witnesses.”

Mrs Fowler-Harnett said she considered the letter insulting and patronising and would not respond to it.

Mr Mcnabb said Energy3 wanted to work with the community.