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Earlybird deals on offer for wind bid

Mighty River Power made deals with many of the potential opponents of its Puketoi wind farm before a commissioners’ consent hearing in Pahiatua had even begun.

The power company has 21 agreements with all affected landowners and 42 agreements for the 220kV transmission lines.

Five submitters against the proposal withdrew their opposition after offers were made to resolve their issues before the hearing started yesterday.

MRP has also promised grants of $20,000 each to the communities of Makuri, Pongaroa and Pahiatua when construction begins, and an annual $10,000 to Pongaroa and $5000 to Makuri once the wind farm starts operating.

Legal counsel for MRP David Kirkpatrick said all three councils considering the application – Tararua, Palmerston North and Horizons – were recommending consent be granted subject to conditions.

Those conditions are expected to help mitigate the project’s effects on what MRP acknowledges as “the outstanding natural feature” of the Puketoi Range.

But Mr Kirkpatrick urged the commissioners not to be tempted to compromise on the number of turbines it allows to soften the impact on the environment.

“An inefficient wind farm is a waste both in economic and environmental terms,” he said.

A clutch of remaining objectors, including one property owner who last week allowed an offer to sell out to MRP to lapse, will give evidence opposing the wind farm next week.

The proposed wind farm, 20 kilometres east of Pahiatua, would have 53 giant turbines along the ridge line, reaching up to 160 metres high, taller than the turbines proposed for MRP’s Turitea wind farm within sight of Palmerston North. Turitea’s turbines will reach a maximum height, with the rotor blades vertical, of 125 metres.

Puketoi has potential to provide enough power for 150,000 households.

The transmission line would traverse 37km, with the last nine pylons on the Palmerston North side of the Tararuas on the Turitea reserve, linking to the already consented Turitea wind farm and transmission line.

MRP is seeking consents that would allow a delay of up to 10 years before going ahead with the development, and 14 years to complete construction.

Its development team general manager Mark Trigg said the demand for electricity was flat at the moment, so it could be several years before investment in further wind generation was economic.

He said while Turitea was a strategic site for MRP, neither the Puketoi nor Turitea projects were dependent on the other going ahead.

Wind speeds at Puketoi rival those at Turitea, making both what MRP describes as “exceptional” resources.

The joint hearing committee is chaired by Paul Rogers, with Dean Chrystal and Jeff Jones as the other independent commissioners.

Presentation of MRP’s evidence is expected to continue today and tomorrow. The hearing could finish by Easter, but another week next month has been set aside if needed.