A battle of eco values, pitting wind power against pristine coastlines, was fought when a massive wind farm was proposed for Makara in 2005.
Power company Meridian faced staunch local opposition to its $350 million, 70-turbine West Wind farm at Quartz Hill. It would be the first large electricity plant close to Wellington and would power 100,000 households.
Locals fought the destruction of priceless reserve land, some of which had the strongest District Plan protection, and the expected noise from turbines less than a kilometre from houses.
“What happens when two core values of greenies everywhere come into conflict? Short answer: Makara,” The Dominion Post said in 2007.
“We’re all supposed to be cheering for renewable energy. But what about when that energy comes in the form of skyscraper-sized metal rods with giant rotary blades attached?”
The 128-household Makara community had successfully blocked a planned 1997 wind farm, but lost their Environment Court appeal to Meridian in May 2007. The court said leaving Makara untouched was the best-case scenario, but renewable energy would be a good way to practise stewardship of the land.
Residents, known as “Makaroons”, saw it as a David and Goliath-style battle.
“We’re fighting a state-owned enterprise with extremely deep pockets which has been wanting to do something like this for about eight or nine years now. They’ve been lobbying and working away in the background,” Makara Guardians member Peter Shearer told the newspaper in 2005.
The court ordered the turbines be reduced in size from 125 metres to 111m, still taller than Wellington’s State Insurance Building. The original 70 towers were reduced to 66 by the court, and Meridian dropped a further four because the planned sites were too windy.
Construction began on the 55-square-kilometre site in late 2007. Each turbine’s foundation measured 15m across and was 1.5m deep, containing 48 tonnes of reinforced steel and 370 cubic metres of concrete. The turbines themselves were built in South Korea, with the 10-tonne blades and gearing manufactured in Denmark.
The farm was opened in 2009, but a year later Meridian was still getting 100 noise complaints a month from residents, mostly about a “low-frequency hum”. By 2014 the complaints had dropped to just one or two a month, but The Dominion Post pointed out that some residents had simply moved away.
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