Meridian Energy has been granted a five-year resource consent extension for its planned wind farm in northern Rangitikei two weeks after it was declined.
A fortnight ago some Rangitikei District Council members felt they had not had sufficient time to assess the application and voted against it. Meridian filed an objection the same day which brought the matter before councillors again yesterday.
Meridian had to show it had made substantial progress or effort on the project since it was first granted in 2010, had approval from persons who might be adversely affected by its granting, and that it fitted with the objectives of Rangitikei’s district plan.
The first two aspects in particular were contested by Rangitikei Guardians, a group of residents opposed to the project. Physical work has not yet started on the wind farm and the Guardians argue it shows substantial progress had not been made. Meridian argues it has every intention to go ahead with the project when market conditions suit.
Its counsel Humphrey Tapper urged the council to accept its own independent legal and planning advice that recommended granting the extension.
Since the project was first consented Meridian had spent $4.6million out of an estimated project cost of $350million.
Councillor Angus Gordon voted in favour of the extension but warned Meridian it needed to make progress shortly.
“As the most northern councillor, I’m probably in the gun here. We’re not being asked to relitigate. Personally I think Meridian have done enough but I’ll also say they are in a ‘use it or lose it’ space. We’re giving you a chance but don’t expect it again from me.”
Councillor Dean McManaway said there were always winners and losers in such scenarios but the council had to listen to its expert advice. “We’ve got to rely on our staff for big-ticket items like this.”
Councillors Cath Ash and Soraya Peke-Mason voted against the extension. Ms Ash felt Meridian and the council had failed to adequately consult with affected residents. “We do not have a clear picture of people that will be adversely affected.”
Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson supported the extension “from a legal point of view”. “I absolutely have some sympathy with the Guardians and I hope Meridian take this on board, because you have a community who are not exactly sure what you are doing,” he said.
Project Central Wind would be across five privately owned rural properties on a site between Waiouru and Taihape. It would contain about 50 turbines generating an estimated 120-130MW, enough to power up to 50,000 average homes.
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