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Puketoi wind farm gets final go-ahead

Mighty River Power has finally been given the green light to build a wind farm at Puketoi, a move the development’s opponents have slammed as “a shame for the New Zealand landscape”.

The power company announced it had the all-clear in its latest quarterly report, and the Environment Court confirmed yesterday that all appeals had been withdrawn without need for a court hearing.

A decision allowing the 53-turbine wind farm to be built on the outstanding natural feature of the Puketoi Range, 40km south of Dannevirke, was made last June.

The development would include a transmission line connecting to the proposed and consented Turitea wind farm near Palmerston North.

The decision drew three appeals to the Environment Court, which have now been resolved and withdrawn.

Waitahora-Puketoi Guardians’ spokesman Stuart Brown said the group had opposed Puketoi, but did not appeal, after an unsuccessful appeal against the granting of consents for Contact Energy’s wind farm further north on the Puketoi Range. “It cost us a fortune (about $130,000). We could not afford to fight any more.”

Mr Brown said many landowners affected by the Puketoi development had signed agreements with Mighty River Power before the Guardians were alerted. “It’s a shame for the New Zealand landscape, but if people are not prepared to put up money to fight it, there is not a lot more we can do.”

He said New Zealanders had a right to know how the Puketoi appeals had been resolved.

The principal objectors were Tararua farmers Wayne and Christine Marshall, who wanted the seven turbines closest to their home removed from the development plan.

The commissioners heard the Marshalls’ home would be closer to the planned 130-metre tall turbines than any other property in New Zealand where the owners did not have a financial interest in the farm.

The Marshalls turned down an offer to buy them out before last April’s hearing.

The commissioners agreed the effects on them would be significant, but did not accept that the couple should hold a power of veto that would stop the development going ahead.

The commission’s decision imposed several conditions to mitigate the effects on them, such as reducing the height of the closest turbines, planting trees to shield their view of the turbines, and double glazing their home to reduce the noise.

Mighty River Power would not comment on the deal which had resolved the appeal and led to its withdrawal. The Marshalls were also unavailable for comment.

However, the 53 turbines all remain in the final consent.

One of the other appeals came from Makuri residents Mike and Angela Connell, who bought the town’s old post office as a retirement home in 2007, before they knew of the power company’s plans.

Mighty River Power said there would be no development of the 310MW wind farm, capable of powering up to 150,000 homes, for at least three to five years.

The consents have a 10-year lapse period.