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Communtity rejoices as wind farm project is abandoned

Opponents of a proposed wind farm in the Tararua region are celebrating a decision to scrap the project.

Contact Energy was initially pushing for the Waitahora wind generation development programme, which would see more than 50 turbines erected across Puketoi Range, but the project’s resource consents have now lapsed.

The company had earlier announced that the project was not being revisited “for the forseeable future” but a spokeswoman confirmed they had abandoned the project.

The resource consents had a five year restriction, and the project would now have to be fully re-consented in order to go ahead in the future.

Waitahora-Puketoi Guardians chairman Stuart Brown said he was relieved turbines would not be erected in the area.

He said many people in the community opposed the wind farm project due to concerns over noise.

People moved to the area to enjoy the silence and aesthetic, which a wind farm would have disrupted, he said.

Contact Energy said it could start the consenting process again, but it had no intention to at this time.

“Our current view is that electricity supply and demand are reasonably balanced with limited need for new investment,” the spokeswoman said.

“If new investment is required in the future then Contact has consented geothermal and gas peaking development options available for development.”

The consents were granted by the Environment Court in December 2010, after an earlier version of the proposal was turned down.

The final consents allowed for the erection of 58 125-metre-tall turbines, or 52 150m-tall turbines, across 9 kilometres of the Puketoi Range.

Contact applied for a 10-year lapse period, but the court only allowed five years, explaining that a decade was an unreasonably long period to lock up resources and create uncertainty for landowners.

Brown said it had been a long process but now that the consents had passed the community could be certain that the project was not going ahead.

The Waitahora-Puketoi Guardians spent more than $130,000 fighting the proposal.

Brown said he understood some people had been supportive of the project’s construction phase because it would have brought traffic and jobs to the area.

But more people were concerned about the noise, property values and loss of landscape.

“It’s that big corporation thing, coming into communities and wanting to do their thing.”

He said small rural communities were often the “little guy”, but their community fought back and he was proud of that.

Tararua mayor Roly Ellis said while some people may have been looking forward to employment opportunities, the majority of the wider Waitahora community would be happy with the plan not going ahead.