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Planner’s decision boost for wind farm project

A wind farm project which has ‘‘polarised” Blueskin Bay has been given a boost after a planner recommended resource consent be approved.

The organisation behind the project, Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust (BRCT), has hailed the planner’s recommendation as a welcome development, but one of those who made submissions against the wind farm slammed it as ‘‘very disappointing”.

The $6million project to build three up to 125m-tall wind turbines on Porteous Hill has divided the community, with 73 submissions supporting the project, 68 opposed and five neutral.

Council planner Darryl Sycamore noted this in his report, saying the two groups were ‘‘diametrically opposed based on perception of the effects and benefits” and that the community was ‘‘quite polarised”.

Despite saying there was a lack of information from BRCT when it came to some of the environmental and health effects from the turbines, Mr Sycamore recommended consent be granted, subject to conditions.

A hearing where submitters will be able to have their say will be held next month. Commissioner Colin Weatherall will make the final decision.

Much of Mr Sycamore’s report focused on the ‘‘key” issue of the effect the wind farm would have on the landscape .

He accepted the turbines would ‘‘dominate” the visual amenity of residents of nearby Pryde Rd and some in the wider community thought they would be a blight on the landscape.

However, he relied on reports from two landscape architects, who believed they would be a positive addition.

‘‘While a landscape assessment is subjective, I rely on the advice of both the council and applicant’s landscape architect, which are generally aligned.”

He summarised council landscape architect Barry Knox’s report, which said the turbines would provide an ‘‘interesting and positive counterpoint to the surrounding landscape”.

Mr Sycamore did find some fault with the BRCT’s application, saying information was lacking when it came to the potential effect on people’s health from noise, glare and reflection from blades catching the sun and the ‘‘flicker effects” created when the sun was directly behind the blades.

Given the prominence of the structures, it was also not appropriate to give a consent which would lapse in 10 years.

‘‘A five-year term provides a greater level of certainty to a community that is quite polarised about the development.”

He also disagreed with the applicant’s position the proposal was a community support activity, saying it should instead be treated as a utility.

‘‘While I acknowledge the application promotes itself as being able to distinguish itself from others by way of the community focus, the application is almost silent on how this will be achieved.”

BRCT manager Scott Willis said he was ‘‘very pleased” with the report and the trust would now consider the issues Mr Sycamore raised.

He believed none of the issues highlighted in the report threatened the viability of the project.

Asked about the level of opposition among some in the Blueskin Bay community, he said: ‘‘We are not going to please everyone all the time, but we are doing our best to alleviate any concerns.”

He believed it could address some issues, including concerns around bird-strike and noise, but it would be impossible to change the minds of people who did not like the look of wind turbines.

Warrington resident Rachel Ozanne, who made submissions against the project, said the recommendation was ‘‘very disappointing”.

‘‘The whole of Warrington has the potential to be very badly affected.”

Issues raised by those opposed, including concerns about health, had not been properly addressed, which made the planner’s recommendation ‘‘extraordinary”.

‘‘I just hope the commissioner has more sense.”