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Wind farm appeal bound for court

The appeal against the Flat Hill Wind Farm looks set for the Environment Court but no hearing date has been confirmed.

An Invercargill City Council commission granted consent for the eight-turbine wind farm after a two-day hearing in February, but the decision has been appealed on the grounds the cultural heritage of the area has not been respected.

The appellants also claim the development does not fit into the district plan and failed to consider the adverse effects on residents.

Te Runaka o Awarua Charitable Trust is the main appellant. Its spokeswoman, Gail Thompson, was not available for comment yesterday.

Another appellant, Eve Fowler-Stockwell, refused to speak to The Southland Times.

Environment Court procedure calls for both sides to attempt mediation and to inform the court of its progress by June 1, setting out unresolved issues.

Council planning manager Terry Boylan said the court process could take months and he was not aware of the appellants contacting the council to pursue mediation.

Graham Laidlaw, who owns the Flat Hill land where the turbines would be sited, said he was disappointed the appeal was going ahead.

It was a waste of money for both parties, he said.

“That money could be better spent doing other things in Bluff.”

If he felt the turbines were going to cause him, his family or animals problems, he would not have wanted it to go ahead, he said.

“I wouldn’t be going for it if I could hear the noise or vibrations. If I could hear them going, I wouldn’t be keen.”

When he bought the land four years ago, he had no plans to build a wind farm, although he had been looking at a small turbine for the roof of his house, he said.

“I’m not a greenie but I’ve always been looking at alternative forms of energy.”

The company behind the wind farm proposal, Energy3, had always been open and honest with him and he was happy with how it had gone about the plan.

Mr Laidlaw said he felt the Bluff community was largely in support of the wind farm and the charitable trust itself was split on the issue.

He was not worried about whether the wind farm went ahead or not, despite the financial gain he would receive, he said.

“If it happens, it happens. I’ll box on with what I’m going to do. (But) I’d prefer to see it go ahead.”

Worries the wind farm could lead to more turbines on the same site were wrong, he said. Any other company moving in to Flat Hill would have to go through the same process as Energy3, he said.

Energy3 director Warren McNabb said he had not been contacted by the council but expected to take a role in proceedings.