A north Waikato farming family who spent about $1 million fighting Contact Energy’s plan for a 168-turbine wind farm claim the failed scheme has left a $1.1m blight on their land.
David and Pamela Walter, whose family has farmed the 365-hectare Nolan Rd sheep and beef farm about half an hour from Tuakau for generations, claim the value of the property has plummeted by 30 per cent to $2.59m thanks to Contact Energy.
The listed power company, whose majority shareholder is Sydney-based Origin Energy, got resource consent to erect power lines across their land in May 2011, causing the land value to drop.
Work on the project has not yet begun. Last month the power company said it was exiting the joint venture with The Wind Farm Group, which is understood to be looking for a new business partner to develop the scheme.
Wind Farm Group chief executive Al Yates has not returned several calls from the Waikato Times.
Walter family spokesman Mark Stewart said the family’s lawyer was asking Contact Energy to lift the designation on their farm, restoring the land value, and pay $1m in legal costs.
“At the end of the day they have got a consent, they are not going to build, and we have got a blight on our land,” Mr Stewart said.
“It immediately knocked 30 per cent off the the value of the land. They have a window from their house to what was going to be 150 of the turbines. This has been one big cock-up right from the start.”
The family was aggrieved that a majority Australian-owned listed company could cause so much uncertainty on private New Zealand land.
“Contact convinced the Government to have this heard by a board of inquiry rather than the Environment Court, then they divided the community and did not offer any level of fair compensation for any objectors, then they got to the board of inquiry and said they needed an adjournment. They needed a second go at it,” Stewart said.
“This has been going on six years. This is not a Government scheme, this is a foreign-owned public company.”
Stewart did not fancy their chances of getting any money back because the board of inquiry set up to hear the application by the Government had not been granted the power to award compensation.
Contact Energy is understood to have spent more than $60m on the project before pulling the plug.
Contact Energy spokesman Nicholas Robinson said the designation on the Walter farm was in the process of being lifted but did not answer further questions around timeframe and costs.
Hamilton resource management lawyer Andrea Twaddle, of DTI Lawyers, said it was worth the Walters asking Contact Energy for compensation as the law had since changed.
“They have been captured by a process that has now been refined because of exactly these sorts of issues,” Twaddle said.
“Certainly it’s worth having a discussion to see whether the matter could be discussed without prejudice as there would be a precedent set.”
– © Fairfax NZ News
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