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Waitahora wind farm project put on hold

The Waitahora Wind Farm development in Tararua is unlikely to be under way before its resource consents expire at the end of 2015.

Contact Energy has announced it will be concentrating on geothermal projects, putting wind generation on the backburner. It has pulled out of the Hauauru ma raki project on the Waikato coast, and it will not proceed with Waitahora “in the foreseeable future”. Contact spokesman Nicholas Robinson said market conditions did not support investment in wind power generation.

However, that situation would be monitored to see when the time would be right to go ahead.

The consents for the Waitahora Wind Farm were granted by the Environment Court in December 2010, after an earlier version of the proposal was turned down.

The final consents allowed for the erection of 58 125-metre-tall turbines, or 52 150m-tall turbines over 9 kilometres of the Puketoi Range.

Contact applied for a 10-year lapse period, but the court only allowed five years, explaining that a decade was an unreasonably long period to lock up resources and create uncertainty for landowners.

That means that some time in the next two years Contact would have to apply for an extension if there was still no decision to proceed.

Otherwise, the consents would lapse, and it would have to lodge fresh resource consent applications or abandon the project.

Tararua Mayor Roly Ellis said it was disappointing Contact had decided to sideline the project for now, but he understood the reasons, around lack of growth in electricity consumption making wind development financially risky.

“Some people will be very disappointed because of the work it would have given the locals, but there will be people in the district who are happy.”

The Waitahora-Puketoi Guardians spent about $130,000 fighting the proposal.