Mighty River Power’s consents to build the Puketoi Wind Farm east of Pahiatua will almost certainly be appealed.
Tararua farmers Wayne and Christine Marshall are “bitterly disappointed” with the commissioners’ decision released yesterday which would allow the 53-turbine development to go ahead.
Some of the proposed turbines on the Puketoi Range skyline were so close they would appear to be in their front yard, said the couple’s lawyer Bruce Gilmour.
The Marshalls’ Towai Rd home would become the closest residence to any wind farm in New Zealand except where the owners had a financial interest in the development.
The commissioners agreed they would suffer “significant adverse effects”.
Those included visual domination, noise, and “shadow flicker” – which would happen as the blades rotated across the morning sun.
But they were convinced by arguments that the Marshalls should not hold a power of veto over the project.
The commission, chaired by Paul Rogers, has imposed conditions to mitigate the effects on the Marshalls’ property. MRP would have to grow a dense stand of trees 10 metres to 20m tall before it could begin erecting four neighbouring turbines – something that could take 10 to 20 years to achieve.
The height of the turbines would also be reduced by 30m to 130m.
“This is the only realistic way we think that adequate mitigation can be provided,” the commissioners said.
If the planting was put in place immediately, the commissioners considered there was “a realistic and reasonable opportunity for screening to occur”.
They also wanted MRP to pay for double-glazing some of the Marshalls’ windows.
The alternative to the screening plan would have been to cut four turbines from the plan.
The commissioners considered that would have too much impact on the efficiency of the wind farm, expected to generate power for up to 150,000 homes at full capacity.
Mr Gilmour said deletion of the turbines would have been preferable.
“Instead the commissioners have elected to enter the unknown and see whether they can plant screening of sufficient height and density, in what is a very inhospitable environment.”
Mr Gilmour doubted the compromise would be acceptable to either party.
“We are currently looking at the conditions very carefully, but our original view is that they are not sufficient.
“The Marshalls almost certainly will appeal.”
They have 15 working days to do that.
Before the consents hearing at the end of March, MRP had made an offer to buy the Marshalls’ property for 15 per cent above market value.
The Marshalls did not take up the offer, which has since lapsed, and there had been no further discussions about purchase or compensation, said Mr Gilmour.
If it goes ahead, the Puketoi Wind Farm would have a Palmerston North connection.
The consents cover a transmission line that would extend across the Tararua Range to link to the already-consented but undeveloped Turitea Wind Farm and join the national grid at Linton.
MRP’s access across the Palmerston North City Council-owned Turitea Reserve would be subject to a review of a reserve management plan that would involve public consultation.
Mighty River Power general manager for development Mark Trigg said the company was pleased with the commissioners’ decision.
He did not comment specifically on the conditions regarding the Marshall property.
MRP has not made any decisions on when the wind farms would be built. Demand would have to grow before either became viable.
Mr Trigg said both sites were exceptional for wind generation.