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Planners tackle turbine troubles

The conflict between wind turbines and people is being tackled in the next batch of possible changes to Palmerston North’s planning rules.

But a seasoned wind farm opponent, Alison Mildon, says the city council’s draft proposals do not go far enough.

“Wind farms and landscapes” is one of the sections of the District Plan coming up for review, with planners seeking public views before formal changes are proposed.

City planner David Murphy said the development of wind farms on the Tararua Range required a balance to be struck between competing values.

The skyline was recognised as an outstanding natural landscape, and also provided a valuable resource for wind generation.

Noise complaints about the Te Rere Hau wind farm highlighted the problems that arose where people lived close to turbines and were disturbed by the noise.

The new planning rules were likely to ensure no new houses could be built closer than 1.5 kilometres to a wind turbine, to prevent a fresh generation of residents moving in, then complaining.

“To date, the debate has been around wind farm establishment near existing houses,” said Mr Murphy. “This is questioning the construction of new houses near wind farms.”

Mrs Mildon said she doubted 1.5km was enough distance between houses and turbines.

“It seems worrying and arbitrary,” she said. “Every scenario is different because of the problems of sound, rather than noise, vary according to a whole complex set of issues such as terrain.”

She said in terms of the visual impact of turbines, 1.5km was not enough, especially for rules that could apply for decades into the future.

“Even if it was appropriate now, technology is changing and turbines are only getting bigger.”

Mr Murphy said some of the proposals released for public comment had drawn from experience, and from resource management decisions on wind farm consent applications.

Additional rules were likely to impose controls on the positioning of wind farms to protect important natural landscapes.

There would also be rules to allow the erection of domestic wind turbines.

Before any of the changes are formally proposed, council planners want to hear from residents about what they think about protecting the landscape, allowing more wind generation, and the separation between houses and turbines.

The wind farm issue is one of seven planning topics out for consultation.

The others are the airport zone, the rural zone, the former Manawatu District boundary change area, flood protection areas in Ashhurst, the North East Industrial Zone near the airport, and a new dairy industry zone at Longburn.

Planners will be available to discuss the issues at two open days planned for Tuesday, April 8, and Wednesday, April 9, from 10am to 7pm at the Palmerston North Convention Centre.

Submissions close at 5pm on Monday, April 28.