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Wind farm OK ruffles opponents

Meridian Energy has won a three-year battle for the right to establish a 31-turbine wind farm on private land between Omihi and Greta Valley in North Canterbury.

But the Environment Court decision has left a bitter taste in the mouths of opponents.

“You feel as though you have been punched in the stomach a bit,” Greta Valley farmer David Meares said.

“I think we have to accept it, but personally I don’t feel any relief at all. I really kept telling myself to ‘be realistic, it’s going to be consented’, but I think maybe little seeds of hope were germinating there because I am quite disappointed.”

Meridian Energy renewable development manager Ken Smales said he welcomed the decision, which gave the company “a strategic renewable generation option for the future’.

“Our decision to build will be determined by market conditions and the project meeting Meridian’s investment requirements. At the moment given the flat market demand it is likely that we’re looking at the medium term for construction.”

The wind farm would generate 71.3 megawatts – enough to power 32,000 average New Zealand homes for a year.

The Environment Court granted the consent for a 10-year period with conditions.

The number of wind turbines was reduced from 33 to 31 and the number of noise monitors required was increased from one to four.

Mr Meares said the 10-year lapse period meant affected residents would have the possible construction hanging over them for a long time.

“Electricity demand is flat at the moment, and it has been for some time, so who knows how the economy will go in the next 10 years? That will have a huge bearing on whether there is enough demand to justify building this or any other wind farm.”

A group of about 180 land owners had spent about $150,000 fighting the application, he said.

“And that is absolutely peanuts on what we really needed to mount a decent challenge. Our experts did well, I thought, but we didn’t have enough of them and we weren’t able to resource them properly.”

He doubted the group would appeal the decision.