Mighty River Power is still planning to develop the Turitea Wind Farm on Palmerston North’s eastern skyline, but doubts have been raised about whether it will go ahead.
The electricity generator was granted consent for a 60-turbine wind farm at the council-owned Turitea Reserve in 2011 after a Board of Inquiry hearing.
The 122-turbine proposal was scaled down, leaving an area of skyline clear when viewed from the city, with two clusters of turbines at the southern end near Hardings Park, and at the northern end near South Range Rd and the Pahiatua Track.
More than four years on, with the consent due to lapse in 2021 if construction is not well underway, council lawyer John Maassen said time was rapidly running out.
But MRP environmental adviser Miles Rowe told resource commissioners in Palmerston North on Thursday the wind farm would be crucial to meeting ambitious targets for renewable energy generation in New Zealand.
The government has a target of switching to 90 per cent of electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2025.
MRP’s own plan is to be 100 per cent renewable once its Southdown gas-fired power station in Auckland closes at the end of 2015.
Rowe said slow growth in electricity demand in the last decade of just 0.5 per cent a year had slowed the impetus for the development of wind farms.
But with predicted growth of 1.1 per cent in future, more wind farms would be needed, and Turitea and MRP’s nearby Puketoi wind farms would need to be built to help achieve the government’s target.
Nearly halfway through the lapse period for its consent, MRP’s planning consultant Andrew Collins raised the prospect that Turitea might not be built exactly as laid out in its consent.
He asked the commissioners to ensure MRP would have flexibility when it came to the detailed design and construction of the wind farm.
As proposed, changes to the wind farms and landscape section of the District Plan would provide no support for any application MRP might seek to alter its existing consent to take advantage of new turbine technology or move the turbine sites.
He also said the wind farm “may yet not be developed”.
Nearby resident and owner of a portion of the Turitea wind farm site Joseph Poff said the whole plan change should be rejected.
He said the plan should give effect to the national policy statement on renewable energy generation, but instead it created more hurdles for wind farm development.
It effectively prohibited wind farms on the Tararua skyline, which had been recognised as an outstanding natural landscape.
“Mighty River Power is teetering… and the potential for it to not be built is strong, and this plan change would prohibit any other wind farm proposal in that area.
“That would be a great tragedy.”
Resident Alison Mildon said what was left of the Tararua skyline was rare and precious and needed protection from more turbines.
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