Meridian Energy’s planned wind farm in northern Rangitikei has hit a snag.
Rangitikei District Council last week voted not to extend the lapse date of the resource consent for Project Central Wind. Meridian immediately filed an objection.
The energy company gained resource consent to build the farm five years ago, then won an Environment Court hearing to proceed with the project after an appeal by Rangitikei Guardians, the plan’s main opponents.
The wind farm would be across five privately owned rural properties on a site between Waiouru and Taihape. It would contain about 50 turbines generating an estimated 120-130 megawatts, enough to power up to 50,000 average homes.
But consent for the project will lapse later this month. For the extension to be granted, Meridian had to show it had made substantial progress or effort on the project, had approval from persons who might be adversely affected by its granting, and that it fitted with the objectives of Rangitikei’s district plan.
Meridian representatives said the company intended to proceed with the project once market conditions suited.
Rangitikei Guardians, saying the lack of progress was creating uncertainty in the region, asked council to decline the consent.
“To suggest that substantial progress or effort has been made is nonsense,” the group’s chairman Geoff Duncan said. “It’s clearly not being built. Clearly Meridian Energy want to landbank Project Central Wind.”
Meridian markets and production general manager Neal Barclay said the economic dynamic would change relatively quickly.
“The economics of the project are changing all the time,” Mr Barclay said.
He said $4.6 million had been spent since it was consented, and design work and turbine selection had been done.
Rangitikei mayor Andy Watson said it was not an opportunity to discuss the relative merits of wind farms per se. Some councillors were concerned with the legal costs council would face if it declined the extension.
“As much as I don’t like this, I don’t think we’ve got a choice,” councillor Ruth Rainey said.
Councillor Angus Gordon said the decision should have been delayed because it was inappropriate to make it while council deliberated on its 10-year plan.
Councillor Dean McManaway said declining the consent would not be the end of the project. “All we will be doing is delaying the inevitable.”
Other councillors decided declining the extension would give them more time to consider it.
The consent remains in place while Meridian’s objection is heard.
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