Noise complaints that have dogged Palmerston North’s Te Rere Hau wind farm for a decade may have been silenced.
Resource management commissioners have put the final touches on a new suite of noise control conditions largely agreed between the city council, New Zealand Windfarms and neighbours during and after a hearing in September.
The Environment Court has not received any valid appeals against their decision.
The wind farm on the Tararua Range, visible to most city residents, has attracted more than 1700 complaints about noise, starting shortly after its consent was issued in 2005, as the turbines were noisier than predicted.
After several rounds of litigation, the city council called a review of consent conditions, leading to the hearing.
The resolution mostly centred on controls on the operation of three turbines closest to homes in the rural-residential areas, rather than imposing blanket controls on the whole wind farm’s 93 turbines.
NZ Windfarms will have to shut down the most troublesome turbines at low wind speeds from the southeast in evenings and at weekends when people are enjoying the outdoors and the noise annoys them the most.
Chief executive John Worth, who has been in the job since March, said the outcome was the icing on the cake after a busy year.
He said the company had been spending up to $500,000 a year on litigation for the past five years, and it was great to put that in the past.
Worth said rather than focusing on whether or not the wind farm was technically complying with past conditions, he had worked on the principle of being a good neighbour.
“Putting compliance to one side, we thought, if it’s p….. people off, then that’s not good enough. We had been a terrible neighbour.”
It began a voluntary shutdown of up to 28 turbines in July to give neighbours respite in the evenings when wind speeds were low, background noise levels were low, and the sound was most annoying.
The resolution requires constant noise monitoring accessible on a public website, and the setting up of a community liaison group to ensure the new regime is effective in providing the results people want.
Neighbour Dr Lee Huffman said it was encouraging that NZ Windfarms had been prepared to make tradeoffs.
She said the commissioners had provided a mechanism through the monitoring and liaison to ensure improvements were made and maintained so they could be “comfortable neighbours” in the long term.
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