The solution to nearly a decade of dispute about noise annoyance, whining, swishing and roaring from the Te Rere Hau wind farm could be found in Palmerston North next week.
Resource management commissioners will be hearing city council proposals to tighten the noise control conditions on New Zealand Windfarms’ consent.
The issues date back to 2008, when the first turbines began operating on the North Range Rd property.
Submitters Lee Huffman and Graham Devey, near neighbours on the Pahiatua Track, will remind the hearing the noise from just the first five twin-bladed turbines was “surprisingly loud”.
They said it soon became apparent the noise levels predicted in the consent application in 2005 were “clearly flawed”.
Since then, the city council has received more than 1750 complaints about noise from the Windflow 500 turbines.
Huffman had analysed reports from neighbours about how they experienced the noise.
They likened it to “being on a ferry”, a pulsing whine, swishing and roaring.
Huffman said the turbines were almost always audible, but were most annoying when wind conditions were almost still at their property.
Ridgeview Rd residents Callum Wilson and Jena Ivamy are new entrants into the proceedings, having earlier maintained a neutral stance.
They said the particular noise that bothered them was “an approaching mechanical sound that never arrives”.
It was “unnatural and intrusive”, and worst when there was little wind at their property, but enough to drive the turbines.
Residents Clel Wallace and Nicky Banks-Wallace called their submission Yet Another Quixotic Tilt at Windmills.
They said they had experienced years of the wind farm’s various “moods”, from thumping and swishing, to rumbling and roaring, and occasional whining.
It was worst when the wind dropped.
“It is during this calm, fine weather that we are doing things outside, gardening, BBQs, sitting around enjoying the ambience, having friends for drinks, entertaining outside – and that is the very time that the wind farm is noisiest.”
They challenged the management of NZ Windfarms not to wait for the outcome of the hearing to solve the problem.
“Put in place some form of temporary arrangement whereby the residents could get immediate relief when they consider the windfarm to be noisy.”
Not all of the 12 submitters supported tighter controls on the wind farm’s noise.
Near neighbour Maurice Alley said the turbines could not be heard at all 1.5 kilometres away, and that the council was a victim of “hysterical turbophobia”.
Pahiatua Track resident Joseph Poff said the review should stop, that it was a waste of money “harassing” NZ Windfarms, and priority should be given to supporting renewable energy generation in the interests of mitigating climate change.
The proceedings are also being closely watched by Tararua Wind Power Ltd, owner and operator of the nearby Tararua Wind Farm, because of the possible implications for tighter controls on its sound emissions.
City council senior planner for compliance and resolutions Craig Auckram said it was clear there were errors in the information given about noise effects when the original consent was granted.
He said the number of complaints the council received was remarkable, as it received few, if any complaints about other wind farms.
“From time to time, [NZ Windfarms] has characterised the source of complaints as being from a limited number of individuals that have become overly sensitised to wind farm noise.”
But Auckram said the size of the group of complainants and the consistency of their descriptions of the noise effects convinced the council their issues were real and should be looked into.
The review aimed to come up with noise limits and penalties to ensure the wind farm stopped having an unreasonable effect on the neighbours.
The hearing, starting on September 12 and set down to go for four days, will be chaired by commissioner Paul Rogers, with Kym Burgemeister and Gina Sweetman on the panel.
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