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A decision on whether Taranaki’s on again, off again, multi-million dollar wind farm project can go ahead may be out by the end of June.
Three independent commissioners have spent this week hearing submissions on the project from the applicant, Tararua Wind Power Ltd (formerly Trustpower), from an independent planner, a landscape architect, South Taranaki District Council, lawyers, experts and some of the submitters who oppose the project.
Tararua Wind Power Ltd is asking for a resource consent that will give it 10 years to begin work on a $325 million, 48-turbine wind farm on the coast between Waverley and Patea, if it decides to go ahead.
The company now had until June 9 to file a written right-of-reply to the submissions.
If no further evidence was required by the commissioners after that, their decision could be released 15 working days later, STDC planning manager Blair Sutherland said.
Both affected iwi initially opposed the development, but withdrew their opposition after they negotiated agreements with the company.
Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui withdrew their objection to the project on Thursday morning, two hours before their representatives were due to speak. Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi withdrew on May 8.
Sutherland said he was unable to say whether the iwi withdrawal would strengthen the applicant’s chances of gaining approval.
“It certainly can’t hurt it, it narrows down the scope of things that have been raised, that are likely to result in an application being denied.”
Another behind-the-scenes agreement was been made by the Department of Conservation, which initially raised concerns about the number of birds that would be killed by the turbines.
Research carried out into migratory bird numbers by the company was inadequate, DOC lawyer Teall Crossen told the three-member panel on Thursday.
However, a plan to monitor and mitigate bird deaths had been agreed between the Department and the company since the application was notified,
Crossen said DOC would have liked radar used in the surveys to increase the certainty of the numbers of birds using the site and their patterns of use.
The proposed wind farm site between Patea and Waverley is on a route used by many of NZ’s migrant shorebirds. When the birds were migrating they flew at night and some would hit the turbines.
The conditions sought by the department included a robust process for ensuring that if more birds use the site and collide with the turbines than predicted by the applicant, measures such as suspending use of the affected turbines and increased compensation payments could be imposed by the council.
“If consent is given, this wind farm will be under the spotlight,” she said.
Patea dairy farmer Paul MItchell questioned the value of the project to his community.
“Why don’t they build the wind farm in Auckland where they need the power? We’re already doing our bit. In Patea and Waverley we don’t have a lot of things going for us, we hold our coastline dear to our hearts.”
Turbines within a kilometre of his farm would spoil his views and lower the value of his farm, he said.
“I have five children. I don’t just sit here for myself, I sit here for them as well. I work so hard, my dad gave me one cow 15 years ago and I’ve worked bloody hard every day. We’ve been able to buy this farm, but with those there, who is going to want to buy that now?”
Another group of residents concerned about the visual clutter of the wind farm were represented by Waverley resident Robert Hayes.
He asked the commission to impose a condition that the supply cable into the township was run underground to preserve their views.
His own research suggested it could cost an extra four or five million to put the cable underground
“The cost of the project is about $325million,so this is only about another 1.4 per cent,” he said
The proposal for the plant was first mooted in 2007.
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