The character and value of the landscape and the likely effects of a single large wind turbine above Blueskin Bay were the focus of a lengthy Environment Court sitting in Dunedin yesterday.
Judge Jane Borthwick and two commissioners are hearing an appeal by Blueskin Energy Ltd (BEL) against the Dunedin City Council’s refusal to allow a 110m turbine to be erected on Porteous Hill, on the north side of the bay.
Four landscape architects were called as expert witnesses to assist the court, two being called by by BEL and one each by the DCC and Porteous Hill neighbours.
They gave detailed evidence of their assessment of the landscape’s inherent elements and value and what they assessed as the likely effects of the proposed turbine and the extent of any adverse effects.
After they had completed their evidence, the four witnesses were questioned in a panel discussion by Judge Borthwick, who said she needed to understand their conclusions and how there was some disagreement.
In his evidence, Michael Moore said he accepted the effect of the turbine would be adverse for the owners of 22 Pryde Rd, although another owner might well think it was positive.
Having made a visual assessment from the property, from his point of view, he thought there could be a pervasiveness about the presence of a large turbine which would amount to an adverse effect, Mr Moore told DCC counsel Michael Garbett.
To Karen Price, the Auckland lawyer representing those living closest to the proposed turbine site, Mr Moore said he believed the adverse effects for 110 Porteous Rd and 22 Pryde Rd could be mitigated by screening with plants.
But he accepted the plantings would be only a partial screen and could have adverse effects on other aspects of the properties, such as the open landscape. And he agreed it would be at least five years before the screening plants began to have any effect.
Mr Moore also said he was aware none of the Porteous Hill residents wanted such mitigation.
In relation to two red flashing lights proposed for the top of the turbine, he understood they would be visible from the other side of Blueskin Bay. But given there were other lights in the area, he did not believe they would create an adverse effect, Mr Moore told Thornicroft Rd resident Alasdair Morrison.
Stephen Brown said his conclusion was that the effects on the coastal environment would not be significant because of the variable nature of the area. The surrounding environment was too mixed and diverse for the turbine to have a significant effect.
But he was not saying it would not have any effect.
While a large turbine could be described as ”a meaningful addition”, he also saw it as a symbol of community values, power generation and renewable energy, Mr Brown said when questioned by Merton resident Andy Barratt.
But he accepted if people objected to such a turbine, it would not be seen as a positive thing.
Having been involved with wind farms over a long time, he acknowledged they did provoke conflicting views.
As a professional, Mr Brown said he found the particular scenario, with one turbine, to be positive. But there was a range of views and he accepted the effects on the near neighbours could be viewed, from their point of view, as adverse.
Landscape architect Dianne Lucas said she did not think the turbine would adversely affect the naturalness of Porteous Hill. She said the naturalness was a result of the land form, the land cover and the diversity of the land use, none of which would be disrupted by the turbine.
The structure would introduce another ”built” element and would be held aloft, so the naturalness of the hill below remained intact.
While the landscape would be changed, its naturalness would not be adversely affected. It was a rural context and the rural character which was the context and the rural attributes would not be affected in more than a minor way.
The turbine would ”sit lightly” on the land, Ms Lucas said. She was not saying the presence of the turbine would not change the landscape, but it would not be an adverse change.
On the question of significance of the landscape of the area, the fourth expert, landscape architect Barry Knox said he believed the landscape was ”not outstanding, but still significant, especially the coastal elements”.
The court expects to hear the final evidence and closing submissions today.
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